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21 Wyeth unionists illegally dismissed after being lured to ‘team building activity;’ labor groups call for immediate reinstatement

The fight for better working conditions continues as workers call for the immediate reinstatement of the 21 unionists.

What was said to be a “team building activity” in Cabuyao, Laguna turned out to be nothing more than a ruse.

Last September 30 saw about 21 Wyeth Philippines Progressive Workers Union – Drug, Food and Allied Workers Federation – Kilusang Mayo Uno (WPPWU-DFA-KMU) members being dismissed without warning. According to labor center KMU,  the unionists are being blocked from working until October 31, when they will be effectively declared as “unemployed.”

Walang agenda ang patawag na meeting sa labas, kaya’t akala namin ay gaya ng nakaugaliang team building bago ang parating na CBA [Collective Bargaining Agreement, an agreement between workers and the company],” an unnamed Wyeth worker was quoted as saying by KMU in an October 2 press release.

[There was no clear agenda when it came to their calls for a meeting, which was why we initially thought that this was a team building activity like what we usually do before receiving the CBA.]

The workers of Wyeth Philippines have had a long history of battling for proper work conditions, with the recent incident coming after protesting against the continued red-tagging crusade against laborers by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

(RELATED STORIES: Mga grupo ng manggagawa, nanawagan sa DILG na tigilan ang panghaharas, pananakot sa mga unyonistang Wyeth, Mga manggagawa ng Wyeth, nakaranas ng patuloy na pananakot mula sa NTF-ELCAC)

Not a game

WPPWU said in a separate post that since as early as September 29, workers were asked to take their work belongings home after the company organized a fogging and misting activity. Related to this, the union feared that 34 rank and file workers and supervisors may lose their jobs.

The 21 were said to be working under Wyeth Nutrition Philippines Cabuyao’s warehouse division and QOPS, with KMU saying that their obligations are essential to the company’s operations due to them being in regular positions. The labor center declared that this move goes against the laws of Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Philippine Constitution, which WPPWU reiterated.

“Iligal ang pagtanggal sa amin dahil kalakhan ng tatanggalin sa amin ay mga forklift operator at Quality Assurance o QA [Worker]. Bukod sa nasa [CBA] namin ang mga posisyon na ito, imposibleng tumakbo ang operasyon kung walang mag-inspect ng quality ng produkto [o] magkakarga ng mga materyales gamit ang forklift,” WPPWU said.

[Our dismissal was illegal as the majority of us are forklift operators and Quality Assurance Workers. Besides these positions being included in our CBA, it is impossible to keep the operation running if there is no one to inspect the quality of products [or] to carry materials with a forklift.]

Additionally, the 21 unionists were presented with a redundancy notice (which details until when a worker is officially considered as employed) and a form that asks them to agree with applying for alternate yet scarce vacant posts. Despite the redundancy notice being effective this October 31, workers were baffled when a memorandum said that they are no longer allowed to work as early as October 1.

The highly competitive nature of the exchange led to comparisons with the South Korean Netflix drama Squid Game, with KMU sayingparang Squid Game na palabas, pagkukumpetisyunin pa ang mga tinanggal at pagalingan para lamang pag-agawan ang iilang positions na bakante sa ibang area [much like the Squid Game show, dismissed workers will be forced to compete just to have a spot among a handful of vacant slots in various areas].”  

Red ribbons up

Last October 4, KMU called for the immediate reinstatement of the 21 unionists, inviting supporters to wear red arm bands or ribbons as signs of solidarity. 

Around this time, WPPWU officials were set to meet Nestlé-Wyeth’s management team, DOLE representatives, and Kabataan Partylist Representative Hon. Sarah Elago to discuss the workers’ grievances.

Kilala na [ng mga manggagawa] ang Nestlé na lumalabag sa mga batas paggawa, hindi tumutupad sa mga kasunduan at CBA, marahas na nagdi-disperse ng mga strike, at pumapatay ng lider manggagawa. Bilyun-bilyon ang kita [ng Nestlé-Wyeth] bawat taon, pero dahil sa pagkagahaman sa pera ay handa [ang kumpanya] magpahamak ng daan-daang manggagawa at kanilang mga pamilya,” KMU Chair and senatorial hopeful Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog slammed.

[The workers already know Nestlé for violating labor laws, not fulfilling CBA terms, violently dispersing strikes, and killing labor leaders. Nestlé-Wyeth earns billions yearly, but due to their obsession for profit, the company is willing to endanger workers and their families regularly]

True to Labog’s words, Union of Filipro Employees (UFE-DFA-KMU) President Diosdado “Ka Fort” Fortuna was shot dead in 2005, bringing to the then-ongoing workers protest (which started in 2002) in Nestle’s factory in Cabuyao to a end. KMU added that former  union president Meliton Roxas was also shot dead in 1987 while in a “front of the picket line.”

All of these even before Nestlé’s acquisition of Wyeth Nutrition in 2013 led to the company’’s “union busting scheme” becoming more severe.

KMU Secretary General Jerome Adonis likewise condemned the illegal dismissal.

Kinukundena [ng KMU] ang iligal na tanggalang ginawa ng Nestlé-Wyeth. Ang hiling ng mga manggagawa, proteksyon mula sa pagbabanta ng mga militar, pero ang tugon [ng kumpanya] ay iligal na tanggalan. Kung ganito lang din, walang pinag-iba ang Nestlé-Wyeth at NTF-ELCAC, [KMU condemns Nestlé-Wyeth’s move. The workers call for protection in the face of military attacks, but your focus is on illegal dismissal. There is no difference between Nestlé-Wyeth and NTF-ELCAC in this regard],” Adonis said. 

As of press time, it has already been seven days since these workers were laid off, and are now struggling as they could not work, DFA says. 

Youth Act Now Against Tyranny also launched a petition last September to stand with Wyeth Workers in their fight against NTF-ELCAC’s attacks on workers. As of press time, the petition has secured 306 signatories.

As of press time, Wyeth Nutrition Philippines is yet to respond to the Perspective’s inquiries. [P]

Photos from Kilusang Mayo Uno / Facebook

Design by Michael Ian Bartido

3 comments on “21 Wyeth unionists illegally dismissed after being lured to ‘team building activity;’ labor groups call for immediate reinstatement

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  2. Pingback: 3 former RAM members sentenced to reclusion perpetua after the 1986 murders of labor leaders Rolando Olalia, Leonor Alay-ay – UPLB Perspective

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