Workers denounce AFP’s hypocrisy; vow to fight for reinstatement of illegally dismissed AFPSLAI union officers

MEMBERS of different bank unions described as a sham the signing today of the AFP and PNP top brass of a guideline pledging that the military and police establishment will respect and uphold labor and trade union rights

In what should have been a momentous event, leaders of the armed forces and the police, as well as the labor (DOLE), defense (DND) and interior and local government (DILG) departments, will sign today the guidelines on the conduct of the said agencies on ensuring that workers’ rights will not be curtailed.

The guidelines are merely reiterations of many existing laws and policies, but what made this document valuable is that it allows workers and trade unions another instrument to help compel the military and the police – amid their alleged involvement in rampant human and workers’ rights violations – to obey the laws that promote and defend workers’ rights, the League of Independent Bank Organizations (LIBO), an alliance of different unions in the banking industry, grudgingly admitted.

“The guidelines look good in paper, but we doubt if the AFP and PNP are truly committed to uphold our rights as workers and trade unionists,” Ricky Ballesteros, LIBO president, retorted.

“In fact, our fellow unionists in the AFPSLAI (Armed Forces and Police Savings and Loan Association) bank were victims of injustice perpetrated by military and police officers in active service and those that have already retired but whose influence and connection with the bank remain strong,” Mr. Ballesteros reported.

The LIBO president is referring to the protracted labor dispute in AFPSLAI, in which last year 15 union officers were dismissed by the AFPSLAI management for allegedly staging an illegal strike in 2009 during the deadlock in their collective bargaining negotiation.

LIBO said that any lawyer would agree that lunch-time picket done by the AFPSLAI union was not illegal and actually a constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression, and because it did not cause disruption in the normal operation of the company, the protest action could never be classified as a strike.

The “illegal strike” case is still pending in the Court of Appeals but the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) has earlier decided, last January 31 and March 7, that AFPSLAI was guilty of illegal dismissal and ordered for the immediate return to work of the officers of the AFPSLAI Employees Association (AEA).

Thus, LIBO explained, even if there is a pending case in the appellate court, the AFPSLAI management is obliged to readmit the illegally dismissed workers.

“Unfortunately, in utter disrespect to the NLRC’s ruling, the AFPSLAI management still refuses to readmit all the officers and disallows them to function as union officers,” Ballesteros said.

“How can we trust the AFP to sincerely implement the said guidelines when they remain callous to the rights of workers right inside Camp Aguinaldo and other AFP and police camps nationwide, and when they cannot even discipline their fellow soldiers,” Ballesteros added.

The AFPSLAI’s head office is inside Camp Aguinaldo, the AFP headquarters, and has branches located in various military and PNP camps nationwide.

LIBO vows to fully support the struggle of their fellow bank unionists in AEA and together with the Sentro ng Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) will continue to hold the AFP leadership as responsible for the continuing violations of workers and trade union rights in AFPSLAI.

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