PMA wins in certification election in an EPZ-located Japanese electronics firm

katolecAFTER a second attempt in three years, a Japanese electronics company inside a Special Export Processing Zone (SEPZ) in the Philippines was unionized when majority of its regular workers voted to have a union in a certification election (C.E.) on Sept. 18, which was marred by sweet-talks and threats of “closure” from management.

Winning convincingly by 220 “yes” against 134 “no” votes, the yes-to-union-approval was a huge vindication for the Katolec Philippines Corp. Labor Union (KAPLU-PMA) and a great reversal of the shocking results during a similar C.E. in 2010, when the “yes” votes were routed by the “no” votes by more than 200 ballots.

Despite its devastating defeat in 2010, KAPLU – which was organized by and affiliated to the PMA – continued to advocate for the Katolec workers even without the assurance that they would eventually support the union.

For instance, KAPLU and PMA quietly assisted the workers from simple advice to their workplace problems to helping in some grievances at work and to the filing of money claims – selfless and actually risky efforts for a non-incumbent union then, which, however, were aptly rewarded with the C.E. victory last Wednesday.

Like in the 2010 C.E., a few weeks before this month’s C.E., the company management became surprisingly accommodating and generous to the rank and file employees, including holding games, team-building exercises and family day gathering, as well as providing or promising groceries and bonuses.

KAPLU revealed that the real motive behind this sudden and temporary “goodwill” of management was to “bribe” or entice the workers to vote “no” again or to reject once more the union, adding that after the “no” landslide in 2010, these unexpected benefits also quickly disappeared.

This “carrot” come-on was, as expected, accompanied by a “stick,” when management strongly warned the workers that voting for “yes” means choosing a bleak future since having a union would allegedly cause the shutting down of the Katolec Philippines Corp. (KAP).

Even after the Sept. 18 C.E., the Katolec management has continued to sow fear among the workers by spreading the threat of “closure.”

“Unions as ‘job destroyers’ are already old, rehashed and discredited black propaganda. The union will only ask the company what are rightfully due to the workers. Likewise, the Katolec Corp., here in the Philippines and in its international operations, are currently enjoying profitable business, thus closing its plant in Laguna is ridiculous,” the PMA explained.

According to KAP, the company has a total workforce of 599 employees as of March 31, 2013, and about 366 of them are regular rank and file.

Established in 1996, KAP is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Katolec Corp. in Japan. The latter, formally started in 1967, has offices and manufacturing and assembly plants in Japan, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Hong Kong, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Mexico.

Katolec firms are mainly engaged in the manufacturing and assembly of electronic components or involved in a so-called new type of business called electronic manufacturing service (EMS), and with clients among big companies in the electronics and transportation industries in many countries.

KAP’s assembly plant – its primary product is the printed circuit board (PCB) – is one of several foreign firms operating at the SEPZ in Laguna Technopark in Santa Rosa City, Laguna province. This 450-hectare private industrial estate, which straddles the cities of Santa Rosa and Biñan in Laguna, is a joint venture of Ayala Land, a premier property developer in the country, and the giant Japanese conglomerates Mitsubishi Corp. and Kawasaki Steel Corp.

KAPLU is a member of the Philippine Metalworkers’ Alliance (PMA), which has currently 25 incumbent affiliate unions in the metal and metal-related industries in the country, including automotive, electrical and electronics, iron and steel, and shipbuilding subsectors.

PMA is a founding organization of the new labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO), in which Francisco Mero, PMA national president, was elected as the chairperson during its founding congress last Aug. 30-31.

PMA is also affiliated to the Geneva-based IndustriALL global union, which is composed of at least 50 million trade unionists in 140 countries and territories who represent “workers across supply chains in mining, energy and manufacturing sectors.”

IndustriALL was founded in Copenhagen only last year from the merger of three former global union federations (GUFs) – International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF), International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM), and International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation (ITGLWF).