Women workers decry demolition of picket line by anti-squatting unit

VALENZUELA—Twenty-eight (28) striking workers (16 of which are women) of Philbless Inc. (PBI) cried foul over the demolition of their picket line by the MMDA Sidewalk Clearing Operations Group (SCOG) 9:45 am on September 20.

Marichie Abgao, president of the Philbless Inc. Workers Union (PBIWU) reported to the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights that two truckloads of MMDA-SCOG operatives headed by Richard Cruz arrived at their picket line and hastily ordered to vacate and demolish the said structures.  They just suddenly arrived and gave us fifteen minutes to dismantle our picket line,” told Abgao.

The workers resisted the demolition citing that they are doing a lawful picket beside the company’s gate due to an unresolved labor dispute.  The workers plead to the MMDA that the demolition be stopped.

“MMDA has no right and jurisdiction to meddle with the ongoing labor dispute at PBI.  A Notice of Strike was provided to the Baranggay Officials and the MMDA prior to the demolition to prove that we are just exercising their right to strike,” Abgao added.

PBI workers have been on strike since April 15, 2010 demanding to improve their excessively poor working conditions.  For 12 hours of work, most workers earn P275 with various unexplained deductions. Workers also complained of unsafe working conditions, underpayment of SSS, Pag-Ibig and Philhealth contributions and long-term contractual status.  Cases at the DOLE Office of the Secretary and National Labor Relations Commission Labor Arbiter Lilia Savari are still pending.

Abgao also asked MMDA-SCOG head Richard Cruz for any deputization order from the DOLE or any Labor Agency but the officer failed to show any. Instead, Cruz asserted that they are just implementing a demolition order from the MMDA Headquarters upon a concerned citizen’s report of a squatting activity in the area.  The agency claimed that they have no intention to meddle with the labor dispute.  Their responsibility is to dismantle illegal structures on public lands.  He then instructed the workers to study the “Building Code.”

CTUHR documentation head, Arman Hernando affirmed that the MMDA has no right to demolish the picket line. “The picket line is not an illegal structure, it is a legitimate form of protest of the workers for their rights. Even if they say that have no intention of meddling with the labor dispute, the demolition itself is an intervention to the workers’ action and it is a violation of the workers’ constitutional rights to hold pickets.

The workers believe that this incident is another harassment scheme of the PBI management against them.  “The concerned citizen cited by the MMDA could be one of the PBI management.  Why would our picket line be targeted for demolition by the MMDA when we are occupying a industrial compound which is a private area.”

Aside from the demolition incident, PBI owner Leonardo Flores has filed an “Alarm and Scandal” complaint before the Quezon City Metropolitan Court against the 19 workers who picketed at the PBI Head office in Quezon City last November 17 and December 8, 2010.###

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