Representatives from HSWU and HSIPI sign the final document of the CBA on December 4 in Rosario, Cavite

Rosario, Cavite – The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the Hye Sung Workers Union (HSWU) – Independent and the Hye Sung Industries (Phils.) Inc. (HSIPI) management was signed on December 4, 2015.

The CBA signing was done a few months after the union voted unanimously for a strike because of deadlock and HSIPI’s surface bargaining, which according to the union is tantamount to refusal to bargain.

The women workers’ determination and perseverance were enough to tip the balance in their favor and come out victorious against HSIPI’s machinations to thwart their right to collectively bargain since winning the Certification Election (CE) in May 2013.

Korean NGOs, the local government of Rosario, Labor and Economic Zone officials also contributed efforts so that the end result would benefit both parties.

Persevere and Struggle

It had been a struggle since the start for HSWU; an all women duly registered independent union. But for them, persevering and taking a step forward in the face of adversities had been the story of their struggle.

The workers sought the Workers’ Assistance Center’s (WAC) help in 2011 worrying that the company might close without getting any compensation. The workers told WAC that they had a union before but their organizer from the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) left them after they lost their first CE.

After a series of meetings, the workers were convinced that in order to have a sense of security in their jobs in HSIPI, they have to form their union. They established HSWU and got their independent registration in August of 2011 and filed a Petition for Certification Election (PCE) on the same year.

But, HSWU’s PCE was challenged by the management saying that the officers and members of the union were also the same officers and members of the previous TUCP-affiliated union thus, joining two unions at the same time, which is not allowed by law according to the company.

To avoid further conflict that may arise regarding their PCE, the union withdrew its petition on November 3 from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and decided that all officers and members should resign from the previous union first, before filing again for another PCE.

It took months for the union to complete and on April 2012 HSWU filed for a PCE again at the labor department.

As expected, HSWU’s PCE was challenged by HSIPI’s management and again argued that officers and members were representing two separate unions. The union’s PCE due to the opposition of the management went all the way up to the Office of the Secretary (OS) of DOLE before it was resolved in favor of the union on February 2013.

The long lull gave time for the company to weaken the union’s rank by offering separation pay amounting to half month of a worker’s salary per year of service. Few workers who were really in dire need of money were forced to accept the offer of the company.

HSWU finally won their CE on May 16, 2013 with 121 workers voted in favor of the union while 16 workers voted in opposition. And on July 29, an order was rendered by DOLE-Region IV-A Med-arbiter certifying the HSWU as the Sole and Exclusive Bargaining Agent (SEBA) for the rank-and file employees in the company.

The victory gave HSWU the right to negotiate for a CBA with the management. The union sent letters of intent to bargain with the management after winning the election but the management constantly refused to negotiate with the union citing that they still had a pending appeal at the DOLE-OS on the conduct of the election.

HSWU held several pickets in front of the DOLE-OS in Intramuros, Manila to protest the seemingly deliberate delay of the department to dismiss the appeal of HSIPI management.

After more than a year, the Bureau of Labor Relations (BLR) of DOLE released a final and executory order on October 2
7, 2014 affirming the union as the sole and exclusive bargaining agent after winning the certification election.

The management was left with no other option but to negotiate and bargain for an agreement with the union though it still filed an appeal before the Court of Appeals (CA).

Negotiation and Delay

HSWU started negotiating with HSIPI for a CBA on January 9, 2015 represented by its Korean Executive Director Soon Suk Hong.

The first meeting was only made possible after the mayor of Rosario Atty. Jose ‘Nonong’ Ricafrente, Jr. convened the parties in the presence of Mr. Allan Datahan, Industrial Relations Chief of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) of CEZ Rosario for the drafting of ground rules.

However, the management wasted about 10 scheduled meetings from January to May to stall the negotiations by not providing a counterproposal to the union’s demands while the union did its best to be calm and prudent against the management’s alibis and consistent position that the company is losing money since 2007.

The union was forced to file for a preventive mediation proceeding before the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) on May 22 because it was clear already that the management was deliberately delaying the negotiations thereby engaging only in surface bargaining.

To expel all alibis of the management and expedite the negotiations, HSWU through WAC sought the help of the Korean House of International Solidarity (KHIS), an NGO monitoring multinational corporations on its compliance to human rights and international labor standards and works with local organizations where South Korean companies are located – to translate the union’s CBA proposal from English to Korean language for the perusal of HSIPI’s Board of Directors in Korea.

KHIS also helped in verifying if the information passed by HSIPI management from its head office in Korea was true.

Bad-faith Negotiation

When the negotiation was brought to NCMB, HSIPI stance on the three-year wage moratorium and majority of other economic demands almost did not change.

The negotiations ran almost weekly since it was brought to NCMB. But, both parties were only able to approve mostly of the non-economic provisions from the proposal of the union.

Thus, a deadlock was declared on the economic provisions, specifically but not limited to wage hike demand, and
consequently the union filed a Notice of Strike (NOS) before the NCMB on September 9.

Aside from the deadlock demands, the union also raised in the NOS the issue of bad-faith bargaining vis-a-vis surface bargaining against the company.

A strike voting followed on September 15 where all workers who casted their ballots favored and supported unanimously the staging of a strike against the company.

The unanimous strike vote result somehow sent chills to HSIPI management that decisively sealed the fate of the negotiations in favor of the union, according to the officers of the union.

Agreement Signed

Series of protest pickets were held in front of the company calling for the conclusion of the CBA and asking the economic zone workers to support the impending strike of the union. Sensing that the union was seriously preparing to stage a strike on the third week of October, the HSIPI management approached the Office of Mayor Ricafrente for immediate intervention.

And on October 14, a compromise Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was reached on all contentious issues in the negotiations by both parties before the Mayor, which eventually caused also the withdrawal of the NOS by the union on October 26.

The union accepted the compromise on a wage hike moratorium only for the first year of the implementation of the CBA but in return the management should grant workers seniority pay retroactive to January 2015 which is also the effective date of the agreement, said Union President Gina Manzo. Both parties agreed that on the issue of wage hike for second and third year of the CBA, the negotiation should be held in June 2016 with retroactive effect that will begin on January 2016.

Manzo further stated that the one-year moratorium is in cognizance of the union to the current financial standing of the company and to the official statement of the mother company in Korea that “by June 2016, Hye Sung Korea hopefully can be more financially independent giving more benefits to workers. CBA benefits can be now included in the 2016 Business Plan/Projection.”

The CBA was finally concluded and signed on December 4, 2015 covering 101 workers in the bargaining unit for the period of five years from January 1, 2015 until December 31, 2019. It was ratified by the bargaining unit on December 12 and was issued Certificate of Registration by DOLE-Cavite Office on 16
th of December 2015.

The HSWU sincerely thanked individuals and organizations that helped them realize their first CBA. They made special mention of KHIS and Rosario Mayor Jose Ricafrente. HSWU hopes that their experience and struggle in unionizing would inspire other workers in the CEZ. Likewise, they call on unorganized workers to unite their ranks and form their union to effectively defend their jobs and assert their rights.

WAC, on the other hand, considers the CBA as another step forward in asserting the right of the workers inside the enclosed and well-guarded economic zones in Cavite.

HSIPI is located in CEZ, a Korean-owned company engaged in the manufacturing of
sound transducers for electronic devices such as but not limited to cellular phones, pagers, cordless phones, automotive speed and safety belts, fax machines, copying machines, laser detectors and computer modems.