By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Labor rights advocates questioned today May 23 the glaring “collusion” of employers and the police against striking workers in Quezon City. The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights condemned the Quezon City police and the Pentagon Steel Corporation management whom they said evidently worked in cahoots with each other to demolish the picket of more than a hundred workers in Apolonio Samson village, Kaingin Road, Quezon City.
“The extent of support given by the local police to the company is alarming especially because fundamental human rights of the workers have been gravely violated,” said Arman Hernando, CTUHR coordinator for documentation.
Last May 18, CTUHR dispatched a quick response team (QRT) to the location of the picketing workers. Hernando reportedly witnessed how the policemen from Police Community Precinct 1 of the Quezon City Police District (PCP1-QCPD) willingly provided security services to the steel company. “The company just sent a request letter to the police asking them to implement an injunction order. It is amazing how fast the police responded to such request,” Hernando said.
Around 40 policemen from PCP1-QCPD headed by a certain Major de Vera were deployed 8 a.m. of May 18 to quell the workers’ protest following the issuance of a preliminary injunction order by the National Labor Relations Commission.
“It’s not difficult to conclude that the police was siding with the company. The police officers stood in front of the factory as though they were the company’s private security, and their vehicles were parked inside the compound,” Hernando narrated.
CTUHR also reported 17 men in civilian clothes deployed around the workers’ picket line. Later CTUHR documentation team found out that these men were police intelligence officers.
Three workers suffered head injuries after being hit by truncheons. After the dispersal, at around 10 a.m., the police also reportedly escorted some 50 individuals including 20 scabs inside the factory.
Sec. 10 Rule XIII Book V of the Omnibus Rules Implementing the Labor Code clearly provides that “no public official, employee, including officers and personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines or the Integrated National Police, or any armed person shall bring in, introduce or escort, in any manner, any individuals who seeks to replace strikers in entering or leaving the premises of strike area. xxx”
“There is a clear collusion of the two entities to further violate the rights of the workers here,” Hernando stressed. Pentagon has committed an “illegal lockout” earlier this month, apparently to layoff unionizing workers. But this week, with police help, it is apparently seeking to continue its operation by replacing the 130 dismissed workers. CTUHR said the police, instead of staying neutral, actively helped the company to pursue its illegal act. “Worse than being illegal, their acts are inhumane,” Hernando said, explaining that it took away the workers’ dignity, the only thing they still have after losing their livelihood.
Worker’s death blamed on Pentagon owners’ anti-worker drive
Last May 14, at 8 a.m., worker Bimbo Laurenciano fell from a 40-foot high asbestos roof inside the Pentagon plant as he tried to sneak into Pentagon’s premises to work while workers outside are still on strike. Laurenciano was rushed to the Quezon City General Hospital but he died the afternoon of the same day due to severe head injury.
“We feel sorry for the death of Laurenciano,” Hernando said. He blamed the worker’s death on Pentagon’s attempts to continue reaping profits amid a labor dispute.”
Hernando said the accident could have been prevented if Pentagon had stopped its illegal lock-out. “The workers are in fact not asking for much, they just want the management to respect their union, and to implement the collective bargaining agreement which calls for providing workers with safety gadgets,” Hernando reiterated.
Prior to the lockout, the union has successfully collectively acted to pressure the management to give attention to work safety. “They are not even asking for a wage hike,” Hernando noted.
But instead of heeding the union’s “modest demands, union leaders were suspended and later, all of the union members were also illegally dismissed,” Hernando said.