Feedmill workers hit labor commission’s TRO against strike

SIDC strike
FILE PHOTO: Strike of SIDC contractual laborers, Batangas 2016

“The Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) must draw the line between appeasing big businesses like SIDC and responding to the needs of the workers.”

By MARYA SALAMAT
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – The National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) has issued an order which, a regional workers’ center said, would make life more difficult for contractual workers on strike. The NLRC has granted the wish of the bosses of the striking stevedores in Batangas to order the entry and exit of products and raw materials in the feed mill.

Since the laborers launched their strike three months ago, the feed mill’s operation had been halted. But after the NLRC issued its 20-day temporary restraining order, production was restarted Monday, October 24 in the Batangas feed mill. At least 100 policemen served the TRO to the striking workers, and after a scuffle, they demolished one of the two strike camps near the entrance to the feed mill.

In a statement emailed to the media by Pamantik-Kilusang Mayo Uno this Tuesday, October 25, it said that porters on strike at the Soro-Soro Ibaba Development Cooperative (SIDC) feed mill in Batangas are indignant over the recently-minted temporary restraining order (TRO) by the NLRC.

Order for capitalist swiftly implemented; order for workers regularization remains on paper

The office of the Department of Labor and Employment in Region 4 has a pending order for 300-plus long-time contractual workers to be regularized under SIDC, Allan Bagas, Pamantik-KMU secretary-general, told Bulatlat in an interview. The order, he said, has not been enforced up to now. He said much of SIDC’s feed mill production workers and stevedores remain as contractual.

The stevedores’ strike stemmed from the workers’ calls to be regular under their actual employer, the Soro-Soro Ibaba Development Cooperative (SIDC). They have been employed for years by DCMM Manpower Services, a labor agency found to be engaging in illegal labor-only contracting. The Department of Labor and Employment has given it a cease-and-desist order weeks ago.

But until now, DCMM continues to operate, supplying contractual workers to SIDC, Bagas said.

SIDC in its website claims to be the biggest agri-based cooperative in the Philippines. NLRC, meanwhile, is a quasi-judicial body under the labor department. It was established during Martial Law in 1974 to “promote and maintain industrial peace by resolving labor and management disputes involving both local and overseas workers.” Only the NLRC could issue TROs when it comes to striking workers.

“We know that the hardline capitalists endlessly put their interests near their hearts, an interest obvious in the labor department for the past years,” Allan Bagas, said in a statement.

He and other unionists from Region 4 had welcomed the Duterte administration’s appointed Labor Secretary and one of the Labor Undersecretaries, Joel Maglunsod, who came from the ranks of progressive labor. The workers welcomed the promised change by the Duterte presidency.

But as the Duterte administration’s first sixth months in office approaches, some labor department’s orders on issues concerning labor rights seem to continue to tilt in favor of employers. Bagas said the now three-month strike in Batangas, which is still pending resolution, is a case in point.

He equated the NLRC order to more opportunities for SIDC to ignore the calls of the workers for regularization under their true and actual employer.

Labor Undersec. Maglunsod has previously told Bulatlat that the Labor Department is “toothless” when it comes to enforcing decisions favoring the workers.

In the previous dialogues between workers and SIDC management, the latter offered the workers regularization on the job but under the DCMM agency. The workers rejected it, saying they are actually working for SIDC for years now and they should have been their legal employer from the start.

That mode of dealing with long-time contractual workers has been rejected by labor centers, federations, and unions when it was presented to their leaders by the Labor department early this month.

“DoLE must draw the line between appeasing big businesses like SIDC and responding to the needs of the workers,” Bagas said. He added that if the NLRC and DoLE really wanted industrial peace, it must begin by telling the SIDC management to negotiate with workers, and not use brute force, to settle disputes.

Bagas said the NLRC order also means the “eventual permit for private goons – or scoundrels – of SIDC, to terrorize the workers in hopes of dismantling the picket line.”

Aside from yesterday’s demolition by 100 policemen of the porters’ strike camp, two other cases of dispersal had been attempted. Security guards had fired warning shots.

The workers vowed to carry on with the strike and their struggle for regularization under SIDC. ()

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