By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Johnny Cobankiat, millionaire owner of huge hardware supplier Co Ban Kiat Hardware Inc., which reneged on its agreement with the workers’ union, recently received a setback. After the workers’ union relaunched their strike in front of its biggest warehouse in Parañaque City, Cobankiat asked the Regional Trial Court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) and a writ of preliminary injunction.
The said petition for preliminary injunction asked the court to restrain the workers from continuing to hold their strike, direct the workers to pay P1 million in damages, and instruct the Southern Police District and Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit to implement the TRO and injunction.
But last Wednesday, the court dismissed Cobankiat’s request, saying the court has no jurisdiction over labor disputes. During the hearing, the Parañaque RTC judge reportedly told the company lawyer that if it has complaints over the labor department’s pace in resolving the dispute, the company could ask the court to subpoena the labor department’s representatives instead.
In a statement, the labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno said the Co Ban Kiat’s request is “a desperate attempt to disperse the strike of workers asserting their demands.”
“Johnny Cobankiat is an example of a cruel, profit-greedy capitalist. His desperation to crush the workers’ strike so he can resume his unhampered raking of millions, by exploiting workers, has led him to use deception, harassment, and intimidation with the help of the government,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU chairman.
Despite the court dismissal of Co ban Kiat’s request for a TRO, the management lawyer reportedly attempted to escort some drivers and other men into the hardware to get some goods last May 31, the ninth day of their strike. Reggy Lumauag, president of workers’ union in Co Ban Kiat, told Bulatlat.com that company lawyer Fernando Maronilla had tried to pass off an unsigned document purportedly allowing them to break through the picketline and drive out of the hardware with stocks.
“We were not born yesterday,” Lumauag said. They asked to have a copy of what seemed to them as a fake document but after they questioned the lawyer for seemingly falsifying a legal paper, the lawyer reportedly folded and swiftly pocketed it.
“The workers’ unity and determination to fight for their rights to unionize, job security, decent wages, and decent working conditions have been getting stronger despite Co Ban Kiat’s desperate attempts to crush their strike,” said Labog. The labor center called on the public “to support the workers’ strike – to visit the workers’ picketline, give financial support, boycott ACE Hardware, and spread the workers’ calls.”
The striking workers’ union has previously demanded an end to what they call as 5-5-5 (five-month job contracts being renewed after the end of each contract), unjust dismissals, scanty wage hikes, dubious tax deductions and inhumane punishments such as forcing the workers to drink water stored in vacuum cleaners or making them work under the sun.
The union has won some of their demands after they launched a strike last May 8 but they launched a strike again last May 23 when the management reneged on their agreement.