Unionized workers cry discrimination in Clark

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CLARK FREEPORT—Several companies wary of organized labor here have blacklisted more than 2,000 workers, mostly women, who have been temporarily laid off after a fire gutted their garments factory on May 31, a union officer told a labor official in Central Luzon.

“Blacklisting workers because of their union affiliation is a violation not only of our laws but also of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” said Ludynela Hamor, president of  Smart Shirts Phils. Inc. Workers Union (SSPIWU), in a letter last week to Raymundo Agravante, regional director of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

“Our government has extended a friendly gesture to these companies, and these companies are under obligation to respect our laws,” Hamor said.

Franco Madlangbayan, vice president of the state-owned Clark Development Corp. (CDC), said he was not aware that garments companies at the free port had enforced a policy against the hiring of workers associated with labor groups.

“It is really up to the individual companies as they do their own evaluation of applicants,” Madlangbayan said on Saturday.

A report from Rodem Perez, manager of CDC customer service department, said 162 Smart Shirts employees had been hired by other garments companies in Clark.

He said Billerby Corp. took in 130 workers; L&T International, 10; Hansa Toys, 20, and Allkey International, two.

Rene Banzon, president of Clark Investors and Locators Association, said outright rejection of organized labor “is not a common practice or a general formal policy in Clark.”

According to Hamor, SSPIWU members were “unceremoniously sent home” by at least five companies that she identified in the letter.

“It seems that workers of Smart Shirts are discriminated by companies located at the free port,” she added.

Hamor asked Agravante to act on the discrimination experienced by Smart Shirts employees and other workers who join unions since these are allowed by laws.

The company suspended its operations for six months, or until December this year, to be able to rebound from fire losses.

Geraldine Panlilio, DOLE assistant regional director, said she had met with CDC executives about the problem and appealed to locators to help the workers.

Arlene Tolentino, DOLE Pampanga director, has set a meeting with SSPIWU leaders on July 12 to discuss economic assistance to the group’s members. Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central  Luzon

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