February 26, 2009

Reference Person:
Laura Sarmiento, WAC-RDIP Program Officer

For more information or interviews, please contact:
Chairperson, Solidarity of Cavite Workers
Tel No.: (+63-46)-8840076

The Solidarity of Cavite Workers (SCW), leads workers and unions from garments and apparel factories in staging a protest rally in front of the First Cavite Industrial Estate (FCIE) in Brgy. Langkaan, Dasmariñas, Cavite on February 26, around 5:30 in the afternoon to demand for their right to job security and condemn the use of the current global crisis by company managements to implement retrenchment, forced leaves and reduced work week and to evade collective bargaining negotiations (CBN) and other labor issues.

Merly Grafe, chairperson of the SCW, said that while they recognize that the garments and apparel sector may be currently experiencing a slowdown, the effect of the global crisis on the sector remains minimal to cause massive lay-offs, decreased working hours and closures citing recent incidents in factories inside the FCIE.

Grafe further related that the phase-out of the garments export quota in 2005 did affect small and less established companies but not the bigger ones like those located inside the FCIE. Moreover, the sector has always experienced seasonal and yearly slowdown in production long before the global crisis started especially after shipment of a large volume of orders.

In early February, the management of the Golden Will Fashion Philippines, Inc, (GWFPI) reportedly told its workers in a meeting that one of its buyers, Anne Taylor, would not place a job order with the company unless the company conclude the CBN with the workers union, Golden Will Fashion Phils Workers Organization. Instead of sincerely negotiating with the workers, the company has been trying to convince the workers to accept an unreasonably low proposal on wages and other benefits.

In an apparent move to pressure the workers to accept its proposal, the management has issued a memorandum that enforced vacation to some 400 workers since February 20. Prior to that since January, the company has been alternately putting workers on 2-week vacations and has laid off at least 130 contractual workers. Last December, the GWFPI has also laid off 25 union leaders and members on alleged theft.

On the other hand, the GWFPI management claimed that an affiliate company, Hoffen Industries Corporation, is in fact hiring workers. A collective bargaining agreement has already been concluded in the company.

Interviews with workers in Pasig Industries, Inc., also located inside the FCIE, revealed that the CBN between the management and the union reportedly came to a deadlock allegedly because of the global crisis. However, further interviews revealed that the company is, in fact, enforcing overtime work and hiring more workers to cover the current volume of production.

A-Grade Mfg. Corp., another company in FCIE, has reportedly has put on forced vacation some 150 workers all throughout February with a possibility of an eventual shutdown citing that there were no orders from their buyers. However, workers are doubtful that the global crisis has anything to do with it saying that they have came across talks that the company will be merging with Excellent Quality Apparel, Inc., an allied company located in the Cavite Economic Zone in Rosario, Cavite.

Meanwhile, workers from Seojin Apparel, located inside the FCIE, said that the company now operates on a 250-workforce since February this year after it has enforced vacation to its 500 workers from December 2008. The workers have been complaining that they have only been paid half of their December salary and have not been given their 13th month pay.

According to Merly Grafe, the SCW believes that the implementation of such schemes as forced vacation and temporary shutdowns are ways by which the owners of garments factories avoid their responsibility to workers and enforce labor flexibilization or contractualization of labor.  Added to that and especially when it concerns more stable companies, such schemes that use the global crisis as an excuse have been implemented to break or arrest the efforts of the workers to organize themselves into a union that would help them gain and fight for their legitimate and basic rights and welfare. #