Tanduay workers vow to continue with their strike at the Cabuyao plant in Laguna as their main call for regularization, which prompted their struggle, remains unanswered to this day.
Passing the 45th day at the picketline, the association leading the strike, TUDLA or Tanggulang Ugnayan Daluyang Lakas ng Anakpawis sa Tanduay Distillers Inc., has already received the Labor Department decision on their case a week ago, but the favorable response to their demand “still exists only on paper” as of today July 1.
Last June 26, a month and 10 days into their strike, Tanduay workers cheered when they received the decision from the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) Region IV-A. Stated in the 20-page decision was the Labor Department’s order to regularize as Tanduay’s own employees 103 workers supplied to Tanduay by Global Pro and HD service cooperatives.
The decision also ordered the said service cooperative and Tanduay “to observe compliance with provisions of Department Order No. 18-A, particularly, on the labor services being farmed out or outsourced by the principal.” This refers to the Labor Department’s findings that there is an illegal labor-only contracting happening in Tanduay. TUDLA said 397 workers are affected – they have become permanent contractual employees receiving lower than minimum pay, less benefits and no job security or democratic rights at Tanduay despite having worked there for up to 11 years continuously.
Tanduay Distillers Inc reported an unaudited profit of P101 million ($2.2 million) by end 2014. Its disclosure to the Securities and Exchange Commission as of Dec 2013 said it has a total of 1,296 full-time employees, of which 1,045 are contractuals. It has three bottling plants in the country located in Cabuyao, Laguna, Bacolod City in Negros, and El Salvador in Misamis Oriental.
Tanduay dominates the rhum market in the Philippines, supplying up to 99 percent of rhum being sold in the country.
Ansi Are, president of TUDLA, welcomed the Labor Department decision, calling it “a concrete victory of workers’ collective action” and an inspiration for all contractual workers trying to organize associations and unions. But he warned, too, that the decision is “divisive,” as it expects them to give up the fight when only 103 or just a fourth of all contractual workers in Tanduay’s Cabuyao plant are ordered for regularization.
Tanduay has nearly 400 contractuals in its Cabuyao plant. Based on previous Bulatlat.com interviews with workers there, the rhum factory terminated its longtime regular workers when it moved production from Manila to Laguna since late 2000’s.
This followed the entry in Tanduay of business tycoon Lucio Tan, the second richest billionaire in the Philippines as ranked by Forbes magazine.
In Laguna, the bulk or 90 percent of Tanduay’s workforce come from third-party service cooperatives doing labor-only contracting, an illegal act in the country. Just one in every ten workers in Tanduay is regular.
The protesting workers told Bulatlat.com that much of Tanduay’s production are performed by contractual workers. TUDLA vowed to call for the regularization of all these long-time contractuals, and not just the 103 workers.
Besides, TUDLA also fears that the Tanduay management will simply ignore this latest order by the Labor Department, as it did in the labor disputes at other Lucio Tan group of companies such as the Philippine Airlines (PAL) employees’ strike on 2011 against massive termination.
Tanduay workers have initiated a campaign to boycott Tanduay products even before the Labor Department decided on their case. They are continuing the campaign as the Lucio Tan company has so far refused to face them in talks and regularize them.
Ariel Velasquez, chairperson of the Liga ng mga Manggagawa Para sa Regular na Hanapbuhay (LIGA), called on the people to support the Tanduay workers’ strike, saying that only with people’s support can they pressure both the Aquino government and Lucio Tan to respect and uphold the rights of the working class.
The Tanduay workers’ strike has paralyzed the production on the first day of their strike. From the second day onward, the company had forcibly brought in other contractual workers and restarted production although not in its usual level yet, the strikers told Bulatlat.com. Workers and supporters were reportedly hurt in a series of stone-throwing, manhandling and beatings by truncheon of company guards and “goons” as well as by blasts of water from firetrucks called by the company in an attempt to dismantle their picket at the gates of Asia Brewery Complex in Cabuyao, Laguna.
Along with the strike of GMA Network’s “talents,” Tanduay workers’ strike has helped to shed light on incidences of contractualization in large companies, and how, legal or not, it is being used to violate workers’ basic rights.
The Kilusang Mayo Uno said in a separate statement the rulings of the Labor Department on the non-regular workers’ struggles of late “show how big capitalists in the country violate the government’s guidelines on contractualization, Department Order No. 18-A Series of 2011, which already favors capitalists over workers.