Karnation Workers Wins Labor Case. Management Guilty of Illegal Dismissal.

The detained Karnation workers, a.k.a. Karnation 20, recently won their complaint for illegal dismissal against Karnation Industries and Export Inc. (Karnation Industries).


In a four-page decision signed by Labor Arbiter Napoleon V. Fernando dated November 25, 2010 released in March 1, 2011, Karnation Industries was found guilty of illegal dismissal of Batuyong et.al and was  ordered to reinstate the workers “without loss of seniority rights” and to pay “full backwages” amounting to P1,177, 696.00 from March to November last year.


“This decision is a welcome development in the long and tenuous struggle of the Karnation 20,” said Mayeth Sapigao, Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) program coordinator.


Since 2009, the CTUHR and the Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center, (PLACE) have been actively campaigning and supporting the case of Karnation 20.


Sapigao however noted that the decision is “not a total victory” for the workers because it has yet to be implemented. She also cited that some parts of the decision were not very favorable to the workers.


“For instance, the amount of full backwages was computed beginning their release from jail (March 2010) and not beginning May 2, 2007 when the workers launched a picket after the management refused to allow them to work and subsequently filed a retaliatory criminal charge that brought the workers to jail for three years,” Sapigao added.


Other complaints of underpayment of salaries, overtime, holiday, service incentive leave, and 13th month pay were dismissed on the other hand for lack of basis.


Sapigao also expressed worries that the company might still evade the decision as it only holds Karnation Industries and not the individual proprietors accountable.


“The owners, Mr. and Mrs. Willy Sia were not made liable by the decision supposedly for lack of employer-employee relationship. Without any specific individual being held accountable in this case, the chances are that the workers end up with nothing because Karnation has already changed its name and there is no one to implement the decision,” Sapigao averred.


Criminal case should be resolved expeditiously


“We are hopeful that this decision will help stir the criminal charges against the Karnation 20 to a positive direction in a sooner time,” Sapigao said.


In May 2007, the Karnation 20 was charged with serious illegal detention by the management after launching a strike. The workers suffered nearly three years in jail where two died of severe respiratory illness due to harsh prison conditions. After months of campaigning beginning 2009, the bail was granted in December 2009 and all the other 18 workers temporarily gained freedom in March 2010.(See related article)


“The ILO has already recommended in March 2010 to the Government of the Philippines to dismiss the criminal charges against Karnation 20 once it is settled that the charges were a result of their exercise of union rights. Our call for an immediate and expeditious resolution of this case is even stronger given this development. Karnation 20 has already suffered for years and this case remains a burden to them and their families although they are temporarily free,” Sapigao noted.#


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