URGENT ACTION ALERT:
Women shoe workers fight against union busting and sexual harassment
Urgent action case:
Union busting / Low wages and withholding of wages / Prevention of workers from returning to work / Sexual harassment / Intimidation and trauma in Bleustar Manufacturing and Marketing Corporation (BMMC), manufacturer of Advan shoes brand
Case data compiled by:
Centre for Trade Union Rights in the Philippines (CTUHR), website: www.ctuhr.org
205 women workers and their male colleagues
Place of incidents:
Wilmark 2 RMT Industrial Complex, Tunasan, Muntinlupa City, Metro Manila, Philippines
Date of incidents:
1990 to present
Employer Jimmy Ong, BMMC - a manufacturer of Advan shoes, and Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)
BMMC produces roughly 5,400 pairs of Advan-brand rain boots and 2,700 pairs of shoes everyday that are distributed locally. Its biggest buyer is the SM chain of department stores. It employs 205 rank-and-file workers, 85% are women, five supervisors and less than 10 office personnel.
Account of incidents:
1. Low wages and withholding of wages / Union busting efforts / Prevention of workers from returning to work
- Despite big salaries given to supervisors, the workers are still paid the P382 (roughly US$9) per day minimum wage after 18 years of service plus P2 (US$ 0.04) for seniority pay every three years.
- Bleustar Workers Labor Union (BWLU - Independent), representing 205 employees, was registered on 2 October 2007.
- Because management does not want workers to form a union, some union officers were coerced to resign. BWLU is the fourth attempt of workers to unionize.
- In an attempt to sabotage the union Certification Election, Bleustar tried to remove the work machines and move away on July 12.
- In response, more than 60 workers held alternate die-ins in front of the company gate to prevent the trucks from leaving the workplace.
- The workers succeeded however, more than 50 of them, which included union officers and victims of sexual abuse, were illegally terminated a day before the Certification Election (CE) which would have paved way for the establishment of their union. They believe that they were terminated to impede their triumph over the CE results.
- The CE, during which workers voted for either BWLU or no union, occurred on 25 July 2008. Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) representatives excluded some 43 ballots cast by illegally terminated workers in the ballot counting. 87 voted for No Union, while 60 voted for BWLU. If the 43 ballots would have been included in the official election results, the BWLU would have won the CE. DOLE also permitted around 28 employees in managerial positions to vote, contrary to the labor code which allows only rank-and-file workers to partake in the CE.
- Elections are now at a standstill. Cases of illegal dismissal have been filed against the management.
- Workers have been on strike since August 6. They continue to hold a picket outside the Bleustar factory day after day, determined and unwavering.
2. Sexual harassment / Intimidation and trauma
- As early as 1993, Mr. Jimmy Ong, a Filipino-Chinese employer at BMMC, started sexually harassing women workers who at the time were between 17 to 22 years old.
- Mr. Ong would arrive at the workplace drunk and seemingly "out of his mind".
- He would touch the women workers' breasts, genitals, and buttocks. He would also forcibly kiss them on the lips, ask them to sit on his lap, and would show off his male organ.
- Mr. Ong would make indecent "invitations" to workers.
- The workers were scared into inaction for fear of getting dismissed. For some, this was their first job, and being so young and naive, they did not find the courage to complain.
- Some have since developed serious trauma. A sewer in the company for 18 years shared that since the indecent proposal made to her, she has hidden under tables and behind cabinets whenever she saw her boss to avoid being called and harassed.
- Some workers even complained to their supervisors and manager about the harassment by Mr. Ong, yet were simply advised to keep quiet and to just "wash your face or take a bath to make you feel clean again".
- Some have resigned to accepting the sexual advances as part of their job.
- Since management learned of the workers' organizing efforts, Mr. Ong's sexual advances came less frequently, but did not stop.
The Bleustar workers' miserable wage situation has been made even worse by repeated sexual harassment from their employer. It has taken almost two decades for the workers to expose and take action against their ordeal because of the lack of alternate sources of livelihood for them. Workers should never have to suffer such obscene and degrading working conditions, nor be subjected to such underhanded union busting efforts. Workers must be able to go to work in a safe and secure environment, not to be victims of sexual violence and abuse. They must be able to organize themselves into a union to improve their economic and working conditions, not face an uphill battle to get their union certified.
The Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May First Movement Labor Centre) therefore supports the Bleustar workers in their struggle to organize themselves into a genuine, militant and patriotic trade union, to be liberated from all forms of harassment and violence, to be empowered to speak out and act on the abuse committed against them, and to be provided the necessary support and solidarity in their quest for justice.
Your urgent response to this action alert is being sought.
Please send letters, emails or fax messages calling for:
1. The immediate certification and recognition of Bleustar Workers Labor Union (BWLU - Independent).
2. The reinstatement of all dismissed workers to give them justice.
3. Senators and Congressmen to launch an immediate congressional hearing and put an end to the exploitation and abuse suffered by workers in Bleustar Manufacturing and Marketing Corporation (BMMC). The congressional hearing coupled by decisive interventions from DOLE and Malacañang should serve as a warning to similar violations occurring in other companies.
4. The President to push for a just and speedy investigation for the sake of her fellow women since DOLE, as an executive department, is under Malacañang.
5. The immediate formation of an independent fact-finding and investigation team composed of representatives from human rights groups, trade unions, women's groups, local government, and the Commission on Human Rights that will look into the sexual harassment and union busting case against BMMC workers.
6. The arrest and prosecution of the perpetrator of human rights violations against BMMC workers.
7. The Philippine Government to be reminded that it is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that it is also a party to all the major Human Rights instruments, thus it is bound to observe all of these instruments' provisions.
You may send your communications to:
H.E. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
AA President of the Republic
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Voice: (+632) 564 1451 to 80
Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968
Cell#: (+ 63) 919 898 4622 / (+63) 917 839 8462
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
Hon. Leila De Lima
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., UP Complex
Diliman, Quezon City
Fax: (+632) 929 0102
Department of Labor and Employment
through their website:
Bleustar Manufacturing and Marketing Corporation
Wilmark 2 RMT Industrial Complex
Tunasan, Muntinlupa City
Please send us a copy of your correspondence to our email / address below.
Kilusang Mayo Uno (May First Movement Labor Centre)
No. 63 Narra St. Bgy. Claro, Proj. 3 Quezon City, Philippines
Telfax (632) 421-0768; Ph: (632) 421-1049 / 421-0986
Thank you in advance and we look forward to your positive response.
Kilusang Mayo Uno