“We don’t think our wages are that high, as these aren’t enough to cover the spate of price hikes in goods, services and other utilities.” – workers of NXP
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – As more Filipino workers are no longer covered by a union, the demands for wage hike even by the few existing unions are now being nixed by employers who cite when they do so the lower wages and benefits of non-unionized workers in similar companies.
The wage hike demand of the union of employees of multinational company NXP Semiconductors (formerly Philips) has recently encountered such stonewalling. NXP’s operation in the Philippines produces computer parts for top notch vehicles such as Porsche, BMW, Mercedes Benz, etc., and some parts for communication equipment. Its factory is located in an industrial park in Cabuyao, Laguna, south of Manila.
Nelle Anaya, 26, production operator, told Bulatlat.com that their management has declared a deadlock in their negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) late last February. Having begun negotiations in January, talks between the 1,500-strong union and the management is now deadlocked on the issue of wage and benefits.
Somewhat tying the hands of the union is the unprecedented addition of contractual workers employed by the management. Since January as negotiations for a new CBA was set to start, the NXP management also started to increase the number of contractual workers to as many as the number of regular workers (1,500 more or less), when before, the contractuals on average numbered from a quarter or as much as half the number of regular workers.
NXP: No more wage hike
“The management doesn’t want to grant a wage increase because they are comparing our wages to the electronic workers of Toshiba and Maxim, also in industrial parks in Laguna and in Cavite,” Anaya said. Electronic workers in most industrial parks of the country are not covered by a union. Consequently, its workers do not enjoy the benefits of wage hikes and improved benefits via CBAs.
“Whatever the union (NXP workers’ union, an affiliate of NAFLU-KMU) has previously won, the management will just keep as is. They are saying our wages are ‘too high,” Anaya said, citing the NXP messages posted in their bulletin boards in the workplace.
Aside from comparing the NXP wages and benefits to that of non-unionized electronic workers in industrial parks of Southern Tagalog, the NXP management has also reportedly told its workers that the wage increase they got (from past CBA) was more than the amount given by law.
CBA’s are, by law, a way for workers to get improved wage and benefits package as their particular company profitability and their union strength would allow.
Analysts view the gross profit margin of NXP Semiconductors Philippines Inc. as “rather high,” at 55.92 percent.
In the last five years (from 2009 to 2013) the company’s quarterly gross profit margin, on average, is 45.55 percent.
“We don’t think our wages are that high, as these aren’t enough to cover the spate of price hikes in goods, services and other utilities,” Anaya said.
With their disagreement on wage hike, the NXP management now reportedly seeks the participation of representatives of the Labor Department in their meetings with the union.
The workers, meanwhile, have been conducting mass actions, such as noise barrages during breaks and once, a march-rally coupled with noise barrage that snaked its way around the workplace and outside the plant, but still inside the strictly maintained industrial park.
It was only after this rally that the management sent a message to the union about holding talks anew, but with a representative from the labor department, the union said.
Julius Carandang, 36, a machine operator at NXP working on CATV antennas for communication, said their current CBA negotiations differ from past negotiations in that this time, under Aquino, their wages are literally being met with no flexibility by the management.
Last year’s wage hike received by the workers in NXP was 7 percent, as part of their last CBA. That amounted to P48 ($1.06) per day. In this CBA negotiation, the management told the union they have a corporate policy on wage increase – and it would no longer move from its own proposal on the table while the union has reduced its proposal from 25 percent to 13 percent.
Before the management-declared deadlock, the NXP union and management have faced each other in a total of 16 meetings for a new three-year CBA. Carandang said that aside from the contentious wage issue, they still have eight issues pending in non-economic issues, of which the major is the regularization of contractual workers in NXP.
Carandang said there are two kinds of contractuals in NXP, the direct-hired and the agency-hired, all performing jobs that are usual, necessary and desirable for the company. Meaning, these contractuals, some of whom have worked for five years in NXP, should have been regular workers now based on the Labor Code.
The union condemns a management justification for having resorted to employing contractuals. According to Carandang, the NXP said they were employing agency workers as “temporary solution” when it added job positions for quality control of some products. But it has been five years since then, and the said “temporary positions” have now become part of the NXP’s “process floor.” It is no longer temporary, Carandang said.
For this CBA negotiation, the NXP workers have been conducting various mass actions, Carandang said. It has been 20 years since their company relocated to this industrial park in Laguna. He said their latest march-rally marked the first time workers held one inside that industrial park.