NutriAsia workers face police harassment, illegal dismissal amid fight for regularization

Nutrisia picket
Of the total 1,400 workers in NutriAsia only about 100 are regular workers.

By MENCHANI TILENDO

Bulatlat.com

MANILA — On their sixth day of strike, workers of the NutriAsia company continue to demand for their rights to regularization, benefits, increased wages, and refund of their salary deductions.

Located at an industrial park in Marilao, Bulacan, NutriAsia is one of the country’s biggest factories of condiments. Its product line includes soy and fish sauces under the brand of Datu Puti and Silver Swan, UFC ketchup, Mang Tomas sarsa, etc.

Since the strike began on June 2, police forces have come and gone, made rounds and stayed inside the plant near the picket. On June 6, police officers entered the picket area twice. At around 6 p.m., for Marilao PNP Superintendent Ricardo Simon Pangan came to deliver a court order by the Regional Trial Court ordering the workers to disperse and terminate their strike within 72 hours. If not, Pangan said the police would be ‘forced to apply maximum tolerance’.

After two hours and a half, another batch of police officers negotiated to enter the picket to conduct an ‘inspection’ of garbage which they claim would cause fire in the area.

One of the striking workers, Robert Tandaguen, 27, said, “The police are not supposed to interfere in labor disputes. Why do they intervene? Why do they enter this private area? They have also trained firefighters’ hose and water tanks around the compound. It can only mean violent dispersal of the protesters here.”

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Region 3 conducted an inspection of the ongoing strike of the NutriAsia workers on June 4.

A dialogue between the company and the workers’ union was scheduled on the same day, but the representatives of NutriAsia did not show up. DOLE rescheduled the negotiation for June 7.

According to the paralegal officers of the union, the criminal case of injunction filed by NutriAsia against the workers violates their rights to organize and hold a strike.

Still, NutriAsia workers are holding the line. “We will not leave the picket until NutriAsia management faces us. Our strike will go on! They should face us and reinstate the workers they’ve dismissed,” Alvin Lascano, member of the Union ng mga Manggagawa sa NutriAsia, said in Filipino.

NutriAsia strike
#NutriasiaWorkersStrike notes this SWAT team circling the picket area. (Bulatlat)

Minimum wage earners in contractual work

Of the total 1,400 workers in NutriAsia only about 100 are regular workers. The rest are contractuals. They earn P380 for eight hours of work. An overtime of additional four hours is paid P240. All in all, a contractual NutriAsia worker earns only P619 in 12 hours of work, overtime pay included.

Aside from rendering underpaid overtime work, the factory workers also work beyond the 12-hour overtime, even during Sundays. Some of them work for almost 20 hours a day with only a break of 45 minutes.

“Even if we’ve already worked our quota for the day, we continue to work. As long as the company needs to deliver products, we work non-stop in the factory,” Cherroby Santiago, a 26-year-old worker, shared.

Most members of the union on strike have worked in the factory for almost a decade or more.

NutriAsia management also deducts fees from their salaries. Every month, P450 is deducted for health insurance, P650 for uniform, and various other contributions.

In the 12 years he’d worked in NutriAsia, Arthur Mosquera, 34, said, “I did not receive any refund. The agencies are thieves.”

Public support and intensified calls

Various sectors and organizations such as Anakbayan, League of Filipino Students, Kadamay, and Gabriela have shown moral support to the striking workers of NutriAsia. They visit the picket line and join the workers.

Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago, ACT Teachers Reps. Antonio Tinio and France Castro, and Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao, legislators from the Makabayan Bloc, also visited the picket area.

“As long as NutriAsia management is refusing to face us, and are not responding to our calls for regularization and reinstatement of workers it dismissed, we will defend the picketline,” said union member Mosquera. In doing so, the members of Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Nutriasia are “on standby and alert mode in the picket area.” ()

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