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Kowloon Workers Clinch Initial Victory

Posted by lenolea on January 24, 2009

After being on strike for more than four months now, workers of the Kowloon Restaurant along West Avenue in Quezon City were able to clinch an initial victory.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
LABOR WATCH
Bulatlat

After being on strike for more than four months now, workers of the Kowloon Restaurant along West Avenue in Quezon City were able to clinch an initial victory.

In its decision dated December 22, 2008, the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) Third Division ordered the reinstatement of all dismissed workers with full back wages. A copy of the said order was received by Kowloon workers through their counsels from the Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center on January 20.

Seventy-three Kowloon workers were terminated by the management on Sept. 13 ,2008 following the decision by NLRC Labor Arbiter Aliman Mangandog declaring the workers’ picket protests as an “illegal strike.”

The workers staged picket protests during their break time on June 20 and 21 last year. The union has been asking for the implementation of the National Capital Region (NCR) Regional Wage Board Order No. 13 issued on August 2007; the order mandated an increase of P12 ($0.26 at the August 2007 exchange rate of $1=P46.07) in the daily wage and an emergency cost of living allowance (ECOLA) of P50 ($1.085).

In the decision, Mangandog also said the workers were considered to have forfeited their employment with the company and were even ordered to pay P40,000 ($868.24) as damages.

Not illegal

The NLRC Third Division comprised of Commissioners Gregorio Bilog III, Lourdes Javier and Pablo Espiritu Jr. reversed Mangandog’s decision.

The decision stated that Manandog “seriously erred and gravely abused his discretion in holding that the workers engaged in an illegal strike despite the fact that they were just exercising their constitutional right to lawful picketing”.

The decision further stated, “Labor Arbiter [Mangandog] …committed a serious error and gravely abused his discretion in penalizing the workers with the supreme penalty of dismissal despite the fact that they have been identified to have committed the supposedly illegal acts cited by the complainant [Kowloon management].”

The NLRC Third Division also said that the management should be penalized for immediately dismissing the workers despite the fact that the decision of Mangandog is not yet final and executory. Mangandog’s decision was issued Sept. 5, 2008. After eight days, the management terminated the 73 workers.

Partial victory

Edmund Navarosa, president of the Kowloon union, welcomed the decision.

Navarosa added however that they are expecting that the management will do all it can to delay the implementation of the NLRC decision. He said the management will surely file a motion for reconsideration within the next ten days.

Severino Gesto, the union’s secretary said, “Masaya kami [sa desisyon] pero hindi pa lubos.” (We are happy with the decision but not yet completely.)

Gesto said they will file a motion to inhibit Mangandog from the case.

He said that many of his co-workers immediately went home to bring the good news to their families.

Sacrifices

Navarosa said they endured hardships and sacrifices. “Ulan, init, lamig, bagyo, nandito pa rin kami.” (Rain or shine, we remained here. We braved the cold and heat and even typhoons.)

Navarosa continued, “Sa pinansya, laging kapos. Kahit puro utang, puro hirap, hindi kami magpapatalo sa management.” (We are always short on cash. Even if we acquired debts, even if we endure hardships, we will not bow down to the management.)

Gesto related he served as a shock absorber to his troubled co-workers, “Ang hirap…” (It was difficult.)

The hardest stage, he said, was during the first week of the strike. “Tinangka kaming buwagin noon.” (They tried to disperse us.) He added, “Isa pang mahirap noong Pasko at Bagong Taon. Nandito kami.” (It was also hard during Christmas and New Year; but we were here.)

Unity, determination

Gesto said unity is the key to their victory.

Of the 73 dismissed workers, 53 opted to stay in the picketline. Four other workers who were not terminated joined them. “Kung mas marami ang pumasok, natalo na kami.” (If more workers opted to work, we would definitely lose this fight.)

He said the management tried to lure them with offers of separation pay twice. The first offer was to pay them ten days per year of service. The second attempt, said Gesto was the for the same amount but payable within one year. “Lumala pa offer nila.” (Their offer became even worse.)

Roger Soluta, executive vice president of Genuine Labor Organization of Workers in Hotels, Retaurant and Allied Industries (GLOWRHAIN) of which the Kowloon union is a member, said “Matibay ang paninindigan nilang i-sustain ang picketline. They did not give in to the proposal of settlement by the management.” (Their determination to sustain the picketline is strong.)

Soluta said the experiences of the Kowloon union and that of the Bluestar workers and Triumph workers prove that unity is the best weapon of the workers.

The Bleustar workers, manufacturer of Advan shoes, were also victorious in September last year after two months of going on strike.

Meanwhile, workers of Triumph International in the country got their demands of wage hikes and other benefits after successive protests. The Triumph International produces undergarments with the same brand and for popular brands like Marks & Spencer and Victoria’s Secret.

Inspiration

Gesto said they have been inspired by the youth who frequently visit their picketline. “Lumakas ang loob namin dahil sa suporta nila.” (We have been emboldened by their support.)

He recalled that in September last year, many students and youth flocked to their picketline. The youth formed a barricade around the Kowloon Restaurant premises. “Halos maiyak kami. Napalakas nila loob namin.” (We almost cried. They boosted our spirits.)

Not yet over

Navarosa said the fight is far from over. “Patuloy kaming maninindigan sa piketlayn hanggang mabalik kami sa trabaho.” (We will continue to defend the picketline until we have been reinstated.)

He said further, “Lalo pa naming palalakasin ang aming pwersa hanggang magtagumpay. Kaya namin silang [management] labanan sa pang-aaping ginawa nila sa amin.” (We will further strengthen our ranks until we achieve victory. We have the resolve to fight against the oppression they did to us.)

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