Following the bloody dispersal of workers’ picketline on Thursday, NutriAsia, Inc. (NutriAsia) releases a statement on June 16 that started by saying it “categorically denies that endo or “end of contract” is being practiced by its service provider/toll packer in Marilao plant. The Company agrees and supports the government’s stand against endo and other illegal forms of contractualization.”
The statement was issued following the Thursday noon police dispersal of the picket line of the workers, leaving score bloodied and injured while 23 were arrested and detained on charges of physical injury and assault.
Workers were on strike since June 2, following the dismissal of 70 workers. The workers also complained of contractualization, low wages and unhealthy working conditions in the company.
The big condiments company also said in their statement the workers deployed by their manpower agency are the latter’s regular employees.
“As such, they are not terminated every five months and contracted again for another five months. They are assured of and enjoy security of tenure as well as all benefits mandated by law, as would any regular employee of any employer does. Being the employer, the provider/toller has the management prerogative to assign its employees with various clients. In practice, however, as a concession to the employees, the provider/toller usually assigns them to a client which is close to their area of residence,” explained the company.
B-Mirk Enterprises Corporation is one of NutriAsia’s three manpower agencies, also referred to by the company as its provider/toller.
“Despite this, it is unfortunate that a minority of the employees of our Provider/Toller were cajoled, and joined by groups such as Kadamay, to commit prohibited activities against the client of their employer. For about two weeks, they managed to prohibit entry to and exit from the plant, which not only completely paralyzed operations but also disrupted the livelihood of their fellow workers,” said the company.
The statement ended with cautioning the public against “issuing unfounded statements in the interest of upholding the law and in promoting the spirit of truth and fairness.”
(Read NutriAsia’s statement here)
Police denied allegations on the violent dispersal and instead said it was a confrontation.
Bulacan acting police chief Senior Superintendent Chito Bersaluna said the police exercised maximum tolerance in dealing with the workers. He also accused the group Kadamay of instigating the confrontation when their members tried to remove the barricade to go inside the NutriAsia premises. He said there was a Bulacan Regional Trial Court on June 6 and 8 to dismantle the picket and thought that the protest would be over when the protesters lying on the ground stood up and left.
Youth groups present during the dispersal posted videos as it happened.
“KUYA WALA PO AKONG GINAGAWANG MASAMA”
— Lucky E. Dela Rosa (@delarosalucky1) June 14, 2018
UPDATE: On their 10th day of strike, NutriAsia (@asia_nutri) workers were harassed and violently dispersed by the police. 18 individuals were arrested, including a student. At least 4 were brought to a hospital. #SupportNutriAsiaWorkers pic.twitter.com/CZzgEPOzn7
— NUSP (@NUSPhilippines) June 14, 2018
DOLE order to regularize workers
In its statement, NutriAsia said its manpower agency has Certificate of Registration under Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Department Order 174 (DO 174) and “not a fly-by-night contractor, which is the evil sought to be prevented by law.”
However, DOLE said in February that NutriAsia and three of its contracting agencies, including B-Mirk, were found violating labor rules.
“Nutri-Asia and its three contractors — Alternative Network Resources Unlimited Multipurpose Cooperative, Serbiz Multi-Purpose Cooperative, and B-Mirk Enterprises Corporation — were found violating labor laws and general labor standards, and engaged in labor-only contracting activities,” it said.
It also ordered more than 900 workers to be regularized.
“In a compliance order issued by DOLE Regional Office 4A Director Zenaida Angara-Campita, the companies were directed to give regular employment status to 914 of their workers. The order cited a number of violations including the exercise by the principal (Nurti-Asia) of full authority over the deployed workers in the performance of their assigned jobs, as well as the lack of substantial capital on the part of the contractors as evidenced by the employees’ use of the principal’s equipment and tools in performing their outsourced services,” said the agency’s statement on February 23.
The statement also said that DOLE found some violations of Occupational Safety and Health Standards during their inspection. Other findings during the general inspection include violations of the general labor standards, such as underpayment of basic wages and other wage-related benefits.
Contractualization and DO 174
And what is DO 174, if we may recall?
(Get a copy of DO 174 here.)
DO 174 was signed and released on March 16, 2017, superseding DOLE DO No. 18-A (D.O. 18-A), which was the governing rule on labor contractualization since 2011. DOLE said that more workers will be regularized with the implementation of DO 174.
However, labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno remarked upon the new DO’s release that it is a “mere rehash of DO 18-A and it upholds the “win-win” solution proposed by the Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines.”
The group further explained that prohibitions stated under DO 174 – primarily (forms of) labor only contracting – were already prohibited by existing laws. In the end, the order is an order for ‘regulating’ contractualization and not ending it and therefore continue ‘legitimizing’ it, the group said.
The labor group also said the workers would still not become regular workers of the company in whose trade they are engaged, but regular employees of the manpower agency.
“Regulation is not prohibition. The DO 174 would not end but instead promote what it deems as legal forms of contractualization. Like (former President Benigno) Aquino’s DO 18-A, it merely teaches employers how to circumvent labor laws to make their contractual employment schemes legitimate,” Jerome Adonis of KMU said.
Another labor group, Sentro, said the “repeated assertion by DOLE officials that they cannot prohibit contracting out of labor is simply not true” and that “gave more than sufficient authority to the Secretary of Labor and Employment to address whatever abuse workers face under contracting arrangements.”
“Based on the Labor Code, as amended, the secretary of labor has no power to prohibit all forms of contractualization and fixed term employment. This matter is a function of legislation. While he has quasi-legislative power, the secretary of labor cannot, through rules and regulations, amend or supplant existing provisions of law,” DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III said in a news briefing on the day of the release of DO 174.
Article 106 of the Labor Code says: “The Secretary of Labor and Employment may, by appropriate regulations, restrict or prohibit the contracting-out of labor to protect the rights of workers established under this Code.”
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