AROUND 600 factory workers of the Carina Apparel Inc., a manufacturer of global garment brands based in Biñan, Laguna stormed the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Tuesday morning to demand an order for them to return to work or for their separation pay.
British-owned Carina Apparel manufactures lingerie for Marks and Spencer, Uniqlo, Gap, Forever 21, Toray, Calvin Klein and Victoria’s Secret.
The DOLE was caught by surprise by the sudden and unexplained closure of the Laguna-based factory that laid off 3,600 employees in the middle of a collective bargaining agreement being worked out between the company and its labor union. The number of workers dismissed is the biggest in recent history.
Larry Valencia, a guard at the factory, said no official was available for comment but said the plant closed down on February 21.
Earlier, its senior operations manager Anthony Wong cited losses to low productivity from employee absenteeism in a letter to the DOLE.
The closure came less than a week after the labor union and management tried to work out a CBA on February 15. But on February 14, the workers were advised that work was being reduced by the management and they were all asked to go on forced leave until February 21. When they reported
for work, they were just told that the company has closed.
The workers claimed they have not been paid due wages for work done from February 1 to 15, an issue which DOLE has yet to clarify with the management of the closed company to determine who were responsible.
A statement by militant labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno said the firm’s reason for closure was that Carina Apparel Inc. Labor Union-Independent (Cailu) “refused to cooperate with the company and has caused serious business losses.”
The workers said they don’t believe the company was bankrupt because Carina was in full operation for a whole year and all its output was exported.
They said the company only wanted to evade its responsibility to the workers and to bust the union. It just wanted to get into contractualization when it operates again, they said.
Hermy Marasigan, the president of labor group Pamantik-KMU, said DOLE director Ray Ubaldo told them the issue has reached Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz but that even the DOLE was unsure whether the closure was permanent or temporary.
“There is great neglect on the part of the government because it didn’t truly give protection for us from companies like this that suddenly closes down,” Marasigan said.
He blamed government’s inadequate monitoring of factories and private companies, which lets them just close down arbitrarily.
Meanwhile, the DOLE promised to help the workers and to safeguard the plant’s machines which may be sold to finance their back wages and benefits, should management be found remiss in its obligations.
Labor advocates described the closure as “sudden” and “illegal,” violating the workers’ right to form unions and due process when it was done without prior notice.