Manila Cordage workers defend picket from guards’ assault

Striking workers Manila Cordage
Bulatlat File Photo: Striking workers from Southern Tagalog, July 2016. (Photo by M. Salamat)

Their only demands are regularization on the job, immediate economic relief through a wage increase, and some benefits.

By MARYA SALAMAT
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – More than four months since they launched a strike for regularization on the job, the makers of rope from Manila Cordage Company (MCC), and of sister company Manco Synthetic (MSI), reported being attacked by at least 60 armed guards in their picketline on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 17.

In a statement emailed to the media this Sunday, Allan Bagas, secretary general of Pamantik-KMU, said the workers’ picket was attacked by security guards of the Carmelray Industrial Park I in Calamba, Laguna. The guards are from Longinus Security Agency, Rapid Security Agency and Papsi Security Agency, but, Pamantik said, the guards are being paid by the owners of Manila Cordage and Manco Synthetic.

The security guards reportedly threw rocks and trained their guns on the workers at the picketline. A worker was hit with a rock on the head.

Despite the rocks and being threatened with guns, the workers courageously defended and maintained their picketline. A negotiation was conducted late in the afternoon between representatives of the Organized Labor Association in Line Industries and Agriculture-Kilusang Mayo Uno (OLALIA-KMU), the federation of MCC and MSI workers, the National Conciliation and Mediation Board of the Department of Labor and Employment (NCMB-DOLE), Carmelray Industrial Park I management, Philippine National Police, and the chief of the security agency hired by MCC-MSI.

The security guards’ chief declined to state his name. He also did not sign the agreement after the talks. But by evening, most of the security guards have withdrawn from the surroundings of the picketline at the industrial park.

The striking workers called on their supporters because after the guards left, the industrial park security has denied them access to food and support from other workers. The strikers anticipate further attacks from the “desperate captalists” of Manila Cordage and Manco.

The attack was not the first, according to the strikers. The picketline has crawled before with security guards. Last July, before President Duterte’s first State of the Nation Address, up to 100 armed guards marched near the picketline and tried to intimidate the strikers to force them to leave.

A strike against contractualization

The strike of the ropemakers was on its second month already when the Duterte administration began. With his promise to end contractualization, Duterte has fostered optimism of workers’ groups who have long called for an end to all forms of contractualization in the country.

Last July 7, representatives of the 300-plus strong joint union of Manila Cordage and Manco Synthetic workers joined a delegation to the Department of Labor and Employment. They asked for resolution of their conflict with their respective companies. At the time, the rope makers’ strike was already on day 63.

It began on May 5. They protested the management plan to terminate the longtime contractuals. Even before that, they explained, the management fires them at will.

“Sinabihan kami. Para daw kaming alikabok – madali pitikin, (We were told that we are just like dust, easily removed.)” said Brando Ebas, union president of workers in Manila Cordage-Manco Synthetic.

Some ropemakers have told Bulatlat that the workers have formed a union the year before. Some of their union officers said it helped them campaign collectively for regularization on the jobs.

Most of these makers of rope have worked with Manila Cordage or sister and neighboring company Manco Synthetic for more or less eight years now. But they are still not considered regular on the job. They are “agency workers working continuously” for years with the company. They received P315 per day of work, on a no-work-no-pay basis. They have no vacation leave, and they pay for their own uniform and safety gears at work.

Richard Lorico, 24, union finance officer of joint Manila Cordage and Manco Synthetic union, said their only demands are regularization on the job, immediate economic relief through a wage increase, and some benefits. But so far, the MCC and MSI management has seldom showed up for conciliation meetings mediated by the labor department. Another hearing has been set for September 21.

“Contractualization remains the menace for many workers in the country,” said Allan Bagas, secretary-general of Pamantik. ()

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