Footwear Workers Face Pressure Anew

After the victorious strike last year, members of Bleustar Workers Labor Union (BWLU) face another pressure as it has to go through another Certificate Election (CE) despite newly concluded CBA with the Bleustar Manufacturing and Marketing Corporation (BMMC) management.

On November 18, 2010, the BWLU and BMMC management signed the CBA three days after the workers staged a strike against CBA in bad faith, union busting, sexual harassment, and other unfair labor practices. After the signing, the union immediately went to Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to register the concluded CBA.

But according to DOLE, they could not issue a certificate recognizing the CBA because there was a pending Petition for Certificate Election (PCE) filed by another union in the company, the Advan United Workers Labor Union (AUWLU), a union affiliated with Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP). The petition states that there is no union in the company and no CBA negotiation exists between the workers and the management.

The BWLU refuted the statement of AUWLU and filed a comment in response to the said petition. On December 23, 2010, however, DOLE Med-Arbiter Joel Petaca released a decision favorable to AUWLU’s petition for CE.

 

Planned Connivance to Dismantle Union

Members of BWLU believe that this pressure is part of previous attempts and continuous efforts of BMMC management and DOLE to dismantle the union.

“It is a clear connivance between the DOLE and BMMC management. Even from the start of our struggle, DOLE’s decisions and procedures in dealing with our concerns are always in favor of the BMMC management,” said Gloria Bongon, BWLU president.

It can be recalled that on September 22, 2008, BMMC management and BWLU signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) facilitated by National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC). This was in response to the workers’ two-month strike against sexual harassment, union busting, delayed salaries and benefits and other unfair labor practices. Included in the agreement were the recognition of BWLU as a registered union and the start of CBA negotiation between the two parties on March 2009.

However, the BMMC did not conform to the MoA and questioned the BWLU’s right to negotiate, stressing the absence of certificate from DOLE recognizing the union as the sole bargaining agent. While the company kept on refusing to bargain, it was concurrently dissuading BWLU members from affiliating with the union. It instead prodded the workers to join the new union they were organizing, the AUWLU.

Meanwhile, the DOLE representative responsible for issuing the Certificate as Sole and Exclusive Bargaining Agent (SEBA) actively avoided the BWLU, often suspiciously absent or cannot be located.  This added as a major factor to the delay of CBA.

Successive protest actions were held by BWLU culminating in a strike on November 15, 2010. However, as the BWLU was busy holding protest actions, the AUWLU filed a PCE to DOLE on September 2010, stating the absence of union and CBA negotiation in the company.

 

BWLU Not Faltered

On January 14, Med-Arbiter Petaca released the decision granting the CE petitioned by AUWLU. The BWLU appealed to DOLE to reverse the decision and asserted the recognition of the concluded CBA. However, the DOLE remained steadfast with the decision, fixing the date of election on February 18.

“It was proven in our previous struggles that we can never trust DOLE to stand in favor of the workers. We achieve triumphs through our collective action. We always prepare ourselves to anything that can possibly happen,” said Bongon.

BWLU also believes that it is only a divisive tactic of the management to use another union to shun the workers from being united with their struggle. “We will not be faltered by this tactic,” she said.

As of the moment, BWLU is preparing for the impending certificate election in the company while continue insisting for the recognition of the CBA.

BWLU is a member of Alliance of Nationalist and Genuine Labor Organisasyon-Kilusang Mayo Uno (ANGLO-KMU) and represents 205 rank-and-file workers, 85% of which are women. The company is located in Muntinlupa and produces Advan-branded rain boots and shoes distributed to different parts of the country.

 

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