Cavite women workers hurt picketing over lock-less comfort rooms, layoffs, suspensions of union members

December 10, 2017 - 2:39 PM
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Rally picket of the Cavite United Workers group at the special economic zone. Photograph from Partido Manggagawa

Women workers of Taiwanese-operated electronics company Lakepower Converter Inc. inside the Cavite Economic Zone, were hurt on Thursday as their picket line was dismantled by guards and persons in ski masks three separate times.

Citing Samahan ng Manggagawa sa Lakepower Converter Inc. president Mercy Tanginan, Partido Manggagawa in a press release said a number of guards and persons whose faces were covered but were wearing police uniforms rushed (“sumugod”) the picketline and took the protesters’ placards and tarpaulins away from them at 9:30 p.m., 11:30 p.m., and 5:00 a.m. the following day.

“Nakasakay sila mga motor, may dalang mga baril at umatras lang nang kinuhanan ng litrato ng mga manggagawa. Ang isa sa motor na ginamit ay may plakang DA 21752 (They were on motorcycles, bearing guns, and they only retreated when the workers took photos of them. One of the motorcycles used had the plate number DA 21752),” Tanginan was quoted as saying.

The strike began at 3:00 p.m., with some 40 women workers participating. About 20 women were left when it grew late.

According to Partido Manggagawa, the incident was triggered after no agreement was reached in a meeting called by the Department of Labor and Employment, with the workers seeking a stop to layoffs and suspensions of officers and members of the workers’ union, which the management was opposed to.

Partido Manggagawa organizer Menchu Pinangay, in a phone interview with InterAksyon, said the workers had also been protesting due to the lack of locks in the Lakepower Converter Inc’s comfort rooms.

“Talagang open lang ‘yung CR (The comfort rooms are just open),” she added.

Most workers in Lakepower Converter Inc. are women, and they are affected by the regulation of their bathroom breaks, leading to many cases of urinary tract infection, Partido Manggagawa said.

According to Pinangay, the workers were picketing in an orderly fashion before the supposed police officers arrived. The workers talked to the guards and explained that they were just voicing out their complaints against Lakepower Converter Inc. However, they were supposedly allowed to continue their protest if they take down their placards and tarpaulins.

The workers defied this, because no one would know what their grievances were if there were no placards or tarpaulins. They also built a kubol (or post) to seek cover from the strong rains on Thursday night.

But when the guards and the supposed police officers faced off with them a second time, their tarpaulin, placards, and other things were removed, “hanggang sa may nasugatan, nagkasakitan na po (until people got wounded and hurt),” said Pinangay.

She sustained scratches on her arm, while worker Maricar Orque sustained a cut in her hand.

“Hindi talaga makatao ‘yung ginawa ng mga pulis na ‘yun… Parang tingin nila sa mga babaeng nandodoon, mga hayop (What those policemen did wasn’t humane… It was like they saw the women as animals),” Pinangay said.

“Binabalya, tinutulak. Talagang ano na talaga, hindi na makatarungan ‘yung ginawa nila (They were being pushed and shoved. What they did was really not right),” she added.

The third instance was worse, with the guards and supposed policemen arriving in motorcycles and tricycles.

“Mas malala na po kasi naka-ready na ‘yung manggagawa kaya lumaban na rin. Sumobra na kasi ‘yung ginawa nila (It was worse because the workers were ready for it and fought back, because what was done to them was too much),” Pinangay narrated. “Talagang nagkarambulan na, nagkahabulan (There was a chase and even a rumble).”

Partido Manggagawa president Rene Magtubo said this was against the guidelines of the DOLE, the Philippine National Police, and the Philippine Economic Zone Authority. He added that Cavite Economic Zone administrator Atty. Norma Tañag should be accountable to the violent attack on what was a peaceful strike.

InterAksyon called Tañag’s office to seek her response, but she was in a meeting until the end of office hours. No other number could be given to contact her, and InterAksyon was asked to call back on Monday.

“Nagbubuo ng unyon ang mga manggagawa upang mapabuti ang kanilang kalagayan sa paggawa. Subalit tinatapatan sila ng walang habas na union busting ng mga kompanya na ayaw partihan ang mga manggagawa ng bunga ng kanilang pagpapawis (Workers create unions so that their working conditions will improve. But they are faced with continued union-busting by companies that do not want to give workers their share in the fruits of their labor),” Magtubo said.