SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—Calling the continued operation of a Taiwanese firm here as “indispensable to the national interest,” the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Wednesday night assumed jurisdiction over the labor dispute between the firm’s workers and management, and issued an order to a group of striking workers to return to work or face dispersal.
Acting Labor Secretary Manuel Imson, through his chief of staff, the lawyer Luzviminda Padilla, ordered some 30 day-shift and swing-shift employees of electric devices manufacturer Taian (Subic) Electric Inc. (TSEI) to return to work within 24 hours upon receipt of the order and the management to accept them under the same terms and conditions prevailing before the strike.
The workers had declined to go to work and staged a strike, holding pickets in front of the company outside the Taiwanese-developed industrial park.
“A prolonged stoppage of the [TSEI] operation will deprive the economy of the very much-needed foreign revenues and may act as a deterrent to investors to invest in our economic zones. The same will adversely affect the employment- and revenue-generation program of the government,” the labor department’s order stated.
“In the light of the foregoing, and considering the effects of a prolonged work stoppage at the company, there is no doubt that the continued operations of the company is indispensable to the national interest,” the order further stated.
The labor department also asked the National Labor Relations Commission to resolve the dispute within 30 days.
The order was questioned by Jimmy Mamolo, head organizer of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) Subic district, who said there was no reason for the labor department to issue an order yet, because no party has filed a petition and the strike was just on its first day.
“We were surprised because at around 9 in the evening of June 16 at the picket line, we were served the [labor department] order and was told to leave the area or face dispersal from the SBMA law enforcement department who arrived at the scene together with SBMA labor manager, [the] lawyer Severo Pastor,” Mamolo said.
TSEI makes electric devices for export and employs about 144 people working in three shifts.
Relations between the management and the company’s labor union, the Taian Subic Employees Union, soured in the last few months after the union, headed by its president Jeffrey Palatulon, filed a notice of strike with the labor department’s National Conciliatory and Mediation Board regional branch in San Fernando, Pampanga.
The union cited as grounds unfair labor practice, specifically harassment, illegal transfer of machines, union busting and illegal suspension of employees.
On May 6, 2004, balloting conducted by the union showed an overwhelming majority of the members were for staging a strike.
Mamolo said the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, through its labor center, tried to mediate on the dispute between TSEI labor and management for more than a month but nothing was resolved.
During these meetings, Mamolo said the union demanded that management withdraw the perjury case it filed against Palatulon and union secretary Jebeth Moran.
“Ayaw talaga iatras ng management ang perjury case na isinampa nila sa president and secretary ng union, kaya the workers staged this June 16 strike,” Mamolo said.
The striking workers initially tried to assemble at the front gate of the company inside the industrial park at around 7:30 in the morning of June 16 but security men of the Subic Bay Development and Management Corp. (SBDMC) belonging to a private security agency intervened and asked the strikers to move out of the industrial park because it was a private and restricted area.
Robert Deano, detachment commander of the industrial park security, told the workers they cannot stage a strike within the premises of the industrial park because they have no permit from SBDMC and that such activity is prohibited in the area