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Updated: 18.12.2012 15:51
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Kämpfe gegen Massenentlassungen: Signal vom Sonnengarten

"Giardini del Sole" heisst die Möbelfabrik, deren Belegschaft durch einen Streik während des Januars bis Mitte Februar diesen Jahres erfolgreich ihre Arbeitsplätze vertedigte - und mit ihrem Beispiel bereits eine Reihe weiterer - teilweise ebenfalls bereits erfolgreicher - Aktionen veranlasst hat, etwa bei einer Werft in Manila. Der Bericht "First workers strike against mass layoffs victorious" von Juan Manggagawa vom 9. April 2009.

First workers strike against mass layoffs victorious

Workers of a furniture factory in Mandaue City in the central part of the Philippines were in high morale as they dismantled their picketlines after gaining a partial victory in their fight.

The union of Giardini del Sole, one of the biggest furniture export factories in the Philippines, was the first to go on strike against mass layoffs since the onset of the global crisis. The workers of Giardini del Sole went on strike last February 3 and paralyzed their factory for two days which forced their management to go back to the negotiating table. The first two days of the strike was filled with tension as supervisors and non-striking workers were hauled by management in an attempt to cross the picketlines. But the strikers held their ground thus no rank-and-file worker was able to enter the factory and the factory remained paralyzed.

Even the city mayor of Mandaue was unable to bamboozle the workers in allowing non-strikers to enter.

The maximum demand of the strikers was for work rotation instead of mass layoffs. The work rotation scheme will be jointly supervised by management, the union and government officials with the power to recall laid off workers when demand and production revives. "If we had not launched a strike that paralyzed the company, then we would have been without jobs and would have been lucky to receive a separation pay after six months. But because we fought for our rights, we got from management and the government a 'bailout package' that is more than what they were initially willing to give," explained Primitivo Ginoo, Jr., president of the Nagkahiusang Puwersa nga Mamumuo sa Giardini (NPMG), the union at the Giardini del Sole.

In negotiations that ended February 16, almost two weeks after the start of the strike, management and the government offered the following forms of assistance to the workers: 1. Immediate payment of separation pay of 13 days per year of service 2. PhP5,000 [US$100] assistance previously released by management will not be charged to the separation pay 3. Refund by management to workers of unremitted social security payments since July 2008 and other similar benefits 4. Grant of PhP360,000 [US$7,200] in employment assistance from the city government of Mandaue to workers who are residents of the town 5. Capitalization for a worker-owned and managed furniture-making cooperative from the labor department

"In times of crisis, the workers will have to fight for every cent that they deserve in wages, benefits and assistance. Workers should learn the lessons of our struggle. We will be treated like disposable rags and worn out machines by capitalists bent on passing the burden of the crisis on workers. Instead of meekly receiving what little they offer us, workers should fight with their heads up high for jobs and rights," argued Eulito Fin Jr., vice president of NPMG. Fin added that "Our experience is proof that capitalists will exploit the crisis to demolish what remains of social protection enjoyed by workers. No retreat on workers rights. No surrender on labor standards. We were not able to achieve our maximum demand of stopping the retrenchments because of collaboration between the capitalists and the government. Yet even if they were in cahoots, we forced them through our determined struggle to compromise on our bailout call."

"In the span of one month since the mass layoffs of January up to the strike of February we tirelessly prepared not just the workers but the public. We even launched a long march from Mandaue to Cebu City [the main city in central Philippines] to highlight our plight. We got the support of the people and that is the reason why the labor department wavered in enjoining the strike by using the power to assume jurisdiction of the dispute and why the government vacillated for two days in breaking the picketlines to enforce free ingress-egress," said Ginoo. Renato Magtubo, chairsperson of Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), stated that the Giardini del Sole workers struggle can serve as a model of the "pro-labor bailout scheme" that the group is pushing for. "The Giardini model of militant struggle and workers assistance can be replicated wherever workers are victims of retrenchment and rotations," he insisted.

Since the victorious Giardini del Sole strike, a second work stoppage has erupted in another furniture factory in the nearby export processing zone. Also sitdown protests and labor solidarity in the large Cebu shipyard managed by the Singaporean multinational Keppel has stopped mass layoffs that could have led to the busting of the union. "The Giardini formula of militant struggle against mass layoffs has proved successful in other enterprises. A strike wave is taking shape and the labor unrest is being fanned by the capitalists' penchant for shifting the burden of the crisis on the workers," Magtubo added.

The labor dispute at Giardini del Sole started last January 5 when more than 300 Giardini del Sole workers held an impromptu protest at the factory gates upon learning that only 100 employees were allowed to work after returning from the holiday break.

5 Demands for a Workers Bailout

1 Unemployment insurance for all workers domestic and abroad who will be displaced due to the crisis. The subsidy will last until the workers find new jobs for a maximum of 6 months. 2 Tax refund for all workers worth 2 months in wages. It will be equivalent to 14th and 15th month salaries that translates to disposable income for workers and additional sales in the market. 3 Decent jobs for the 3 million unemployed even before the crisis struck. Reform the present public employment program. It must be supervised by people's organizations instead of controlled by elite politicians. Decent work must be respected instead of the present practice where wages are below minimum and work is temporary in status. 4 Health insurance coverage for all displaced workers. Government must subsidize the health insurance premiums while the workers remain without work. 5 Moratorium on demolitions and evictions. Condonation of penalties and interests on low-cost and socialized housing loans.

In times of crisis, the minimum government must do is to refrain from destroying the houses and livelihoods of the poor. Assistance must be extended for retrenched workers who will be unable to pay mortgages. All these measures require mere executive action and government can implement these as early as tomorrow.

The funds for these massively expanded social programs can come from payment for onerous and illegitimate debts. It will be light punishment for the bankers who sparked the crisis in the first place. Bailing out the workers is just the first step. Reversing the policies that brought about the crisis itself is the next.

The policies of liberalization, deregulation at privatization and even neoliberal globalization itself must be rolled back. It is high time to put the Philippine economy on rehab and kick the addiction on export orientation and overseas employment. Filipinos must be able to find decent work in the country instead of being forced to seek oftentimes precarious and perilous jobs abroad as migrant labor. The long-term formula to is to develop the domestic economy by strengthening industry and modernizing agriculture based on agrarian reform. The ultimate solution is to replace moribund capitalism with a new society whose organizing principle is not prioritizing corporate profit but meeting people's needs.

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