Outraged by a decision that undermined workers’ fundamental right to freedom of expression, members of the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) today trooped to the Supreme Court to stage an indignation rally.
The protesters shaved their heads in front of the Supreme Court to dramatize their indignation over the Court’s decision to junk their plea for a reconsideration of the November 2008 ruling on the case of NUWHRAIN-APL-IUF Dusit Hotel Nikko Chapter v. Court of Appeals penned by Associate Justice Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr
Back in 2002 Dusit Hotel workers were prevented from entering the company premises after cropping their heads as part of their protest actions during a collective bargaining deadlock. Claiming that the workers staged an illegal strike, 90 workers were illegally terminated. In response, the union filed a case of union busting and illegal dismissal.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court, through the Velasco decision, took the Dusit management’s side. The Court ruled that the act of several hotel employees in reporting for work with shaved heads constituted an illegal strike because it resulted in a work stoppage when management prevented them from working. The Court ruled that the shaving of heads was not a constitutionally protected form of expression because it embarrassed and defied the hotel’s rules on grooming standards. In other words, that the act of shaving one’s head as a means of protest transgressed the limits of freedom of expression and could validly be restricted by law.
“The SC is now telling workers that any concerted actions such as wearing of black arm bands, prayer rallies, and other forms of dramatic expression of collective actions, can be considered as a strike even if there is no work stoppage,” Reynaldo Rasing, president of the NUWHRAIN-Dusit Hotel Nikko Chapter, said. “This is a dangerous precedent that would inhibit the exercise of workers’ constitutional right to strike,” he added.
With the adverse decision, affected workers lost about 200 million in terms of back wages and benefits since 2002.
The protesters intend to file another motion for reconsideration. “We hope this time Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno would listen and review our case en banc,” Rasing said.
A host of unions apart from NUWHRAIN and APL have expressed interest in the case. Manggagawa sa Komunikasyon ng Pilipinas (MKP), National Labor Union (NLU), Confederation of Independent Unions in the Public Sector (CIU), Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK), Postal Employees Union of the Philippines (PEUP), Union of Statistics Employees (USE), National Alliance of Broadcast Unions (NABU), Philippine Metalworkers’ Alliance (PMA), Automotive Industry Workers Alliance (AIWA), Workers’ Solidarity Network (WSN), League of Independent Bank Organization (LIBO), Alliance of Coca-Cola Unions in the Philippines (ACCUP) filed their motions for intervention. However, their motions were denied by the Court’s Second Division as well.
Meanwhile, the Court has yet to act on the motion for intervention filed by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila – Archdiocesan Ministry for Labor Concerns (AMLC).
“This is just the first of a series of rallies that we intend to hold,” Rasing finally said.