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Chemical workers appeal for support to union leaders

Chemical workers appeal for support to union leaders

Labor NGO Vihda urged Cenapro Chemicals owner Mr. Amado Go to respect workers’ rights as befits a Christian most especially a Papal awardee.

By MARYA SALAMAT
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — This week the workers of CENAPRO Chemicals Incorporated operating in Mandaue City, Cebu started calling on all sectors especially the Church people to help them prevent the impending termination of 11 union officers and to urge Cenapro to respect the memorandum of agreement it had signed last November with the striking workers.

In said agreement, the management agreed to put an end to the company practice of 16-hour “forced labor” and not to resort to retaliatory actions against protesting workers.

In a statement emailed to the media by Visayas Human Development Agency (Vihda), a labor NGO based in Cebu City, it traced the looming termination of union leaders to the charges filed by Cenapro management last October claiming that the workers had engaged in an illegal strike. About a month after filing a complaint with the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), the Cenapro management signed an agreement with the striking workers. It agreed not to retaliate, but it did not withdraw the complaint it filed against the strikers.

Last month the NLRC Regional Arbitration Board (RAB) issued a decision in favor of Cenapro. Labor Arbiter Bertino Ruaya, Jr. declared the workers’ strike illegal. It ignored the union’s manifestation that a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) had been signed by the management and the union resolving the issues of the strike.

The Cenapro workers’ strike lasted 22 days in October 2014. It was lifted following the signing of a MOA between management and union on November 8, 2014.

The MOA signing was witnessed by Labor Department Region 7 Director Exequiel Zarcauga.

After more than half a year though, the workers said the provisions stated in the MOA are not yet being implemented by Cenapro management.

Vihda reports that the practice of forced overtime continues in Cenapro as the agreed provisions that the management would hire additional workers as relievers have also not been implemented.

Their MOA provides that “the company shall not compel the employees to render overtime work except in instances provided in the labor code wherein overtime work may be required.” It also said “the company will hire 2 workers as reliever (to be trained, evaluated within three months) with standby status and they will render OT work when needed. The MOA further stated that “the workers are not anymore required to look for their reliever should they avail of their leave.”

The labor NGO noted also that recently, when the CENAPRO workers held pickets in protest of the illegal strike decision, Cenapro Chemicals part-owner, president and chief operation officer Mr. Amado Go issued memos to protesting workers demanding explanation for their legitimate protest.

The workers’ union added that the management has also refused to implement the check-off provisions in the MOA.

Papal awardee urged to respect workers’ rights

Go is a Papal awardee for service to the Church. In 2010, he received the Cross of Honor Award, the highest honor that Pope Benedict XVI gave to the laity and religious groups. Vihda urged Go to respect workers’ rights as befits a Christian most especially a Papal awardee.

Cenapro Chemicals is partly owned by Japanese multi-national companies Kuraray Chemicals (35-percent ownership) and Marubeni Corporation (five-percent ownership). Go and other members of his family own 60 percent of Cenapro Chemicals. The company manufactures for export activated carbon, a raw material used in purification, filters, metal extraction, gas mask, respirators and sewage treatment and for treatment of poisonings and overdose. It is produced through a process of crashing, burning, cooling and refining with the use of giant crashers, ovens, coolers and other machines including chemicals like muriatic acid and asbestos.

Cenapro workers are exposed to black dust from crushed charcoal, to extreme heat of up to 600-900 degree Celsius from huge ovens and to harmful chemicals.

They have been prompted to launch a strike in protest of regular forced overtime which they said puts at risk the workers’ health and safety. VIHDA has recorded six work-related accidents since 2013, where the workers who had been at work for long hours got their hands caught in machines, resulting in mutilated fingers.

Vihda suspects that the nine incidents of cancer and seven deaths due to cardiac arrest among workers may be work-related. It warned that this pattern of accidents, sickness and death will continue if Cenapro management continues the practice of forced overtime.

Cenapro accused of violating laws

According to VIHDA, Cenapro management’s refusal to implement the MOA constitutes violation of existing Philippine labor laws and international labor standards under the United Nations (UN) and International Labor Organization (ILO). “The filing of the illegal strike complaint, Arbiter Ruaya’s illegal strike decision and issuances of memos over a legitimate protest-actions, are acts of retaliation and union busting, a violation of Philippine laws and of Freedom of Association under UN International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) article 22; and Article 2 of 1998 ILO Declaration,” said the VIHDA statement.

Forced overtime is also a violation of existing local labor laws including ILO Abolition of Forced Labour Convention and UN ICCPR Article 8 No. 3 on forced or compulsory labor.

Suporters of Cenapro workers including VIHDA believe that the priests, nuns and other church leaders may be more successful at appealing to Go “to do justice to his title as a Papal awardee, to adhere to the dignity of labor in accordance to Church teachings, respect Philippine labor laws and international labor standards.”

They urged the public and Church people to write a letter of appeal to Mr. Go and to the Japanese owner

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