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GENERAL APPEAL (Philippines): Labor office fails to ensure factory pays back wages to workers

June 20, 2008

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal General: AHRC-UAG-009-2008

20 June 2008
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PHILIPPINES: Labor office fails to ensure factory pays back wages to workers

ISSUES: Working conditions; workers; trade unions; right to employment; freedom of association
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has been informed of the continued failure of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) to implement the order by their regional office requiring a Korean-owned garment factory to pay their workers the back wages and benefits due to them. They have also failed to have the employers held to account for depriving them of adequate working conditions and denying them the right to collectively bargain and to freely associate.

CASE DETAILS: (According to information received from the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR))

On January 22 of this year, the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) in Region 4-A, after conducting a thorough investigation and determining that the workers of the K&Y Apparel Corporation has since been receiving salaries far below the required minimum wage, issued a writ of execution ordering the employer to pay all the workers their back wages.

Since then, however, the employer have not been able to pay their 901 workers, at least 800 of them are casual (non regular) workers back wages amounting to Php 21 million in total.

It is learned that when the workers were first employed, they were forced into signing a waiver/document stating they were receiving the minimum wage from the company. The regional wage board of the DoLE in Region 4-A, which cover the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon (CALABARZON) has been requiring a minimum wage of Php 287 (USD 6.57). However, the company's casual (non regular) workers only receive Php 110 (USD 2.52) per day and even those regular workers, who had been with the company for ten years, receives only Php 237 (USD 5.43) per day.

Apart from that, although the DoLE had been requiring a mandatory salary increase by implementing wage orders, the company has not complied this order. What they do instead is to increase wages on their own prerogative and decide upon themselves how much the cost of the increase should be. One employee reported that the last salary increase they had was Php 2 (0.45USD) sometime in 2006.

Not only did the company pay their workers below to what is required, they are also making questionable deductions from their salary. For example, if a worker is unable to reach the target quota for the month, a deduction for "percentage" would be taken from their salary. The company, however, does not provide any explanations and neither how do they compute the amount to be deducted from the worker's salary and the reasons for the deductions.

On May 1 of this year, though the employer paid some of their workers, but it was done purposely to use them to coerce their fellow workers into signing a quitclaim or motion to quash, which states that they are no longer interested in claiming their back wages in exchange for their continued employment with the company. Also, it states that once the workers sign they wanted to nullify the writ of execution the DoLE has issued.

Some of the workers were forced to sign the said document; however, they later filed an appeal with the DoLE Region 4-A seeking to nullify their signatures. These workers said that had they not been forced and threatened with dismissal they would have not signed it.

On June 7 also, some 400 workers held a picket outside the factory, not only for their demands for payment of their back wages, but to claim their salaries for the service they had rendered for the month of May. However, instead of paying them, their employer called on some police reinforcements to intervene. For instance, the police escorted Jae Dong Kim, vice-president of the company as he exited from the factory premises while the workers were holding their picket demanding from him payment of their salary. At the time of this writing, the workers have not been able to receive their salaries for month of May.

Also in May of this year, the workers who are under the Luckyline Cooperative, which is also under the same company, has received a letter from the company stating that the contract between K & Y and Luckyline has already expired thus they need not to continue working with the company.

The workers filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) for illegally dismissing them arguing that they are not members of the Luckyline or any other cooperative. They, too, argued that the Luckyline has since been declared "non-operating" since 2006, which is according to the records shown by the Cooperative Development Authority; thus, the company should have had full responsibility on them and that they should be able to continue working because they are their employees.

The workers there has since been forced to work for 12 hours, which is contrary to the required eight working hours, and work for seven days in a week. It is said that the company is implementing a policy requiring workers to reach their own quota thus depriving them of any rest days. They had to work as early as 6am until 9pm daily purposely to reach their quota. And even if the workers are able to reach their own quota within eight hours, they are prevented from leaving the factory. Instead, when they finish on time they are taken to another operation to help their fellow workers.

Also, on occasions that the company had to deliver products the following day, the factory owners have had to make their own arrangement which forced the workers to continue working even after having worked for 12 to 15 hours. The company also does not follow the required payment for overtime to workers. The required computation should have been (RW (regular wage) +10 percent + 25 percent); however, the factory calculates the overtime pay payment only by (RW +10 percent).

The workers have also had to endure poor working condition making them vulnerable to sickness since they themselves are overworked. The factory has no proper ventilation facilities which results to workers becoming overly exhausted. When a worker fell unconscious, the line supervisor would simply give her ammonia to inhale in order to regain consciousness. If accidents occur, regardless of the gravity of their injuries, a worker is only given Php 1,000. They are not allowed to demand more financial assistance.

Though the factory has a clinic, it is too small to accommodate the number of workers which requires their service in giving the needed medical assistance. According to the workers, not only did their company doctor visits irregular he only performs medical examination to Korean proprietors and some of their selected employees.

There were also no proper working arrangement for pregnant workers and those who are breastfeeding child. Once a worker fell sick, they had to work as long as they can carry on. They may be allowed to go home but would not be able to receive any salary because the management implement a "No work, no pay" policy. Thus, this situation forced workers to continue working even if they are not feeling well. The salaries the workers are getting are based on the actual output or quota they had reached.

Also, the workers routinely experiences being scolded and publicly humiliated should they commit mistakes, or even on instance with no clear reasons at all. They are also not allowed to make any complaints or air their grievances. They are always told in warning them that there are "hundreds of workers available to replace anyone who intends to leave."

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
 
The K & Y Apparel Corporation (Kyung Sung Apparel Corporation) is a Korean owned garment company, established and registered in July 1991, which produced various kinds of signature apparels. The products and labels they are producing include that of GAP, Ralph Lauren, Hallmark, Hanes, Danzen and others.

K & Y exports to different countries in Asia and the US. Their finished products are shipped twice a week or more abroad in an 18-wheeler cargo trucks.  Each shipment contains 2,900 to 3,000 boxes x 9-12 pieces of garb in each box. They are transported through OOCL, Evergreen or EPL Cargo Shipping Company. 

The company employs 101 rank-and-file regular workers under the union KMKYAC (Kilusang Manggagawa K & Y Apparel Corporation) and more or less than 800 employees working under three service cooperatives, namely the Lucky Line Multi-Purpose Coop., KS Textile Multi-Purpose Coop., and the Friendship Multi-Purpose Coop.

All the workers of this three service cooperatives are under the same company. When these cooperatives were formed, some 800 workers were forced to join. Under these cooperatives, workers are considered as casual employees that effectively deprived them from joining unions and it also excuse the company from any financial liabilities to the workers.

The company recently opened its new factory in Cambodia. Some of its workers in the Philippines were also brought there.

Because of unfair labor practices mentioned above, some of the workers organized and eventually formed a union, Kilusang Manggagawa ng Kyung Sung Apparel Corporation, sometime in 2003. They later changed its name to Kilusang Manggagawa ng K & Y Apparel Corporation. The management however illegally dismissed all of the union members who in turn responded by holding a strike.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write letters to the concerned authorities, particularly the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE), for them to ensure that the order requiring the company to pay the workers of their back wages due to them is acted upon without delay. They should also commence a thorough investigation into the working condition of these workers and allegations of violations under the labor code.

The AHRC has also written to the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises calling for an intervention in this matter.

To support this appeal, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ____________,

PHILIPPINES: Labor office fails to ensure factory pays back wages to workers

Number of affected workers: At least 901 workers, about 800 of them casual (or non regular) workers
Date of incident: Since 5 July 1991 to present
Location of the factory: Kapalaran Subdivision, Barangay (village) San Juan Taytay, Rizal, Region 4-A
Name of factory and their employers: K&Y Apparel Corporation (Kyung Sung Apparel Corporation); Sung Hyan Kim, president; Jae Dong Kim, vice-president; Ok Ja Yoon, treasurer; Jin Sun Kim, secretary; and Choon Eui Kim and Eun Sun Lee
Name of responsible authorities: Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE), Police Regional Office (PRO) 4-A of the Philippine National Police (PNP)

I am writing to voice my serious concern into the continued failure by the authorities; particularly the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) to implement promptly the order by their regional office requiring a Korean-owned garment factory, whose name and employers are mentioned above, the payment of their workers of their back wages and other benefits due to them.

Though the regional office IV-A of the DoLE, has already issued their order on January 22 of this year for the payment of some Php 21 million to at least 901 workers, about 800 of whom are casual (non regular) workers, this has remained not been implemented since. The said money is the total cost of back wages for these workers the company ought to give for their failure to comply the required minimum wage.

The workers, instead of receiving the required Php 287 (USD 6.57) minimum wage, receives only  Php 110 (USD 2.52) per day for casual (non regular) and Php 237 (USD 5.43) even for regular workers; thus, the DoLE's decision on their case following the latter's conduct of thorough investigation into their case. Also, apart from that, the company has had practice of requiring workers whom they are employing into signing an agreement which states they do receives their minimum wage but in reality are not.

Apart from this non payment of back wages and paying them way below the required minimum wage, I have also learned that the workers are either forced or have had to work beyond the required eight hours working period daily and without day offs. They, too, are not paid of their overtime pay according to what is required of their services rendered. The working condition of workers in the factory was likewise poor; for instance, they had no adequate facilities for ventilation; their clinic, physicians and medical facilities is lacking and workers has not been afforded adequate medical examinations due them.

I therefore urge the DoLE, responsible for the implementation of the said orders for writ of execution, to immediately implement it without delay. I have learned that even though the company is paying some of their workers, they were nevertheless used into forcing their other workers to sign a document waiving their rights to claim their back wages; and that the claimants are themselves forced to agree that they are no longer interested with the claim. I am extremely disturbed by these actions taken by the company.

The DoLE and the concerned government agencies must intervene without further delay to prevent this practice by the company from taking place; and that they must be required to implement the DoLE's order. They must also look into allegations of the company's actions depriving their workers of their rights under the labor code; for instance, their right to adequate working condition, right to collective bargain and to freely associate.

I am disturbed by the incident wherein the union members, who decided to create their labor union in order to collectively bargain for their demands, were themselves illegally dismissed from the company sometime in 2003. Also in May of this year, some of the workers were also illegally dismissed from their job on pretense that the contract of one of their services cooperative where they are supposedly attached, had already expired. I have learned though that these cooperatives are actually under the same company.

I urge you to look into this incident thoroughly. Should there be no sufficient grounds for the workers dismissal and that the company has violated their workers rights--either those dismissed in 2003 or last month of this year--they should be given compensation or be reinstated to their work.

I trust that you take adequate action in this case.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTER TO:

1. Mr. Marianito Roque
Acting Secretary
Department of Labor and Employment (Dole)
7/F DOLE Building, Intramuros
Manila NCR 1002
PHILIPPINES
Tel No: +63 2 527 2131
E-mail: sec_art_brion@yahoo.com.ph 

2. Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
President
Republic of the Philippines
Malacanang Palace
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel
Manila 1005
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 736 1010
Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80
E-mail: corres@op.gov.ph
 
3. Mrs. Purificacion Quisumbing
Commissioner
Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue
U.P. Complex, Diliman
Quezon City
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 929 0102
Tel: +63 2 928 5655 / 926 6188
E-mail: drpvq@yahoo.com 

4. Deputy Director General Avelino Razon
Chief, Philippine National Police (PNP)
Camp General Rafael Crame
Quezon City
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2724 8763
Tel: +63 2 726 4361/4366/8763
E-mail: bluetree73@gmail.com 

5. Mr. Raul Gonzalez
Secretary
Department of Justice (DoJ)
DOJ Bldg., Padre Faura
1004 Manila
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 521 1614
E-mail: agnesdeva@yahoo.com 

6. Mr. Peter Favila
Secretary
Department of Trade and Industry
4/F BOI Building
385 Sen. Gil J. Puyat Avenue
Makati
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 896 1166
Tel: +63 2 899 7450

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrchk.org)

Document Type :
Urgent Appeal General
Document ID :
AHRC-UAG-009-2008
Countries :
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Extended Introduction: Urgent Appeals, theory and practice

A need for dialogue

Many people across Asia are frustrated by the widespread lack of respect for human rights in their countries.  Some may be unhappy about the limitations on the freedom of expression or restrictions on privacy, while some are affected by police brutality and military killings.  Many others are frustrated with the absence of rights on labour issues, the environment, gender and the like. 

Yet the expression of this frustration tends to stay firmly in the private sphere.  People complain among friends and family and within their social circles, but often on a low profile basis. This kind of public discourse is not usually an effective measure of the situation in a country because it is so hard to monitor. 

Though the media may cover the issues in a broad manner they rarely broadcast the private fears and anxieties of the average person.  And along with censorship – a common blight in Asia – there is also often a conscious attempt in the media to reflect a positive or at least sober mood at home, where expressions of domestic malcontent are discouraged as unfashionably unpatriotic. Talking about issues like torture is rarely encouraged in the public realm.

There may also be unwritten, possibly unconscious social taboos that stop the public reflection of private grievances.  Where authoritarian control is tight, sophisticated strategies are put into play by equally sophisticated media practices to keep complaints out of the public space, sometimes very subtly.  In other places an inner consensus is influenced by the privileged section of a society, which can control social expression of those less fortunate.  Moral and ethical qualms can also be an obstacle.

In this way, causes for complaint go unaddressed, un-discussed and unresolved and oppression in its many forms, self perpetuates.  For any action to arise out of private frustration, people need ways to get these issues into the public sphere.

Changing society

In the past bridging this gap was a formidable task; it relied on channels of public expression that required money and were therefore controlled by investors.  Printing presses were expensive, which blocked the gate to expression to anyone without money.  Except in times of revolution the media in Asia has tended to serve the well-off and sideline or misrepresent the poor.

Still, thanks to the IT revolution it is now possible to communicate with large audiences at little cost.  In this situation there is a real avenue for taking issues from private to public, regardless of the class or caste of the individual.

Practical action

The AHRC Urgent Appeals system was created to give a voice to those affected by human rights violations, and by doing so, to create a network of support and open avenues for action.  If X’s freedom of expression is denied, if Y is tortured by someone in power or if Z finds his or her labour rights abused, the incident can be swiftly and effectively broadcast and dealt with. The resulting solidarity can lead to action, resolution and change. And as more people understand their rights and follow suit, as the human rights consciousness grows, change happens faster. The Internet has become one of the human rights community’s most powerful tools.   

At the core of the Urgent Appeals Program is the recording of human rights violations at a grass roots level with objectivity, sympathy and competence. Our information is firstly gathered on the ground, close to the victim of the violation, and is then broadcast by a team of advocates, who can apply decades of experience in the field and a working knowledge of the international human rights arena. The flow of information – due to domestic restrictions – often goes from the source and out to the international community via our program, which then builds a pressure for action that steadily makes its way back to the source through his or her own government.   However these cases in bulk create a narrative – and this is most important aspect of our program. As noted by Sri Lankan human rights lawyer and director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Basil Fernando:

"The urgent appeal introduces narrative as the driving force for social change. This idea was well expressed in the film Amistad, regarding the issue of slavery. The old man in the film, former president and lawyer, states that to resolve this historical problem it is very essential to know the narrative of the people. It was on this basis that a court case is conducted later. The AHRC establishes the narrative of human rights violations through the urgent appeals. If the narrative is right, the organisation will be doing all right."

Patterns start to emerge as violations are documented across the continent, allowing us to take a more authoritative, systemic response, and to pinpoint the systems within each country that are breaking down. This way we are able to discover and explain why and how violations take place, and how they can most effectively be addressed. On this path, larger audiences have opened up to us and become involved: international NGOs and think tanks, national human rights commissions and United Nations bodies.  The program and its coordinators have become a well-used tool for the international media and for human rights education programs. All this helps pave the way for radical reforms to improve, protect and to promote human rights in the region.