Laid-off cement workers take action in Davao, Philippines

27 March 2019 22:24

Workers at Holcim’s Davao operations have taken action outside the plant after being abruptly laid off by their employer (Fortsteel), a labour-only subcontractor supplying workers to Holcim. On 4 March Fortsteel laid off 141 workers and then offered 59 of those workers (mostly non-union workers) an additional 2-year contract at the Holcim plant. Eighteen of those offered new employment contracts rejected it, because not only is it illegal but to do so would require the workers to sign a document saying they had quit.

“It is a failure of justice that these contractual workers, many of whom have worked in the Holcim factory for several years now, have no security of tenure in the Philippines,” said BWI Regional Representative Apolinar Tolentino. “This is a clear example of union-busting. It is the responsibility of LafargeHolcim to take action and protect these contract workers’ rights, particularly in light of the proposed sale of its Philippine operations.”

The union had already filed complaints with the Department of Labour, calling for the regularisation of workers under Philippine law. The Department of Labour and Employment has previously directed Holcim to absorb all contract workers in its roto packing and bulk loading sections, which would cover most of the affected workers, however only fifteen workers have been regularised.

Contractual workers do not enjoy the right to bargain collectively alongside regular workers, and do not receive many other benefits such as annual leave and social security, not even basic health and safety provisions are given to them. Many of the workers that have been laid off were paid by piece-rate, and compelled to work long hours just to make ends meet.

In February 2019 the union and BWI representatives met with management representatives at the Davao plant, and stressed the importance of protecting workers’ rights during any possible sale of the assets, and, reminding them of the need to take action on regularising contract workers. LafargeHolcim already announced the sale of its Indonesian operations in November 2018, and a number of local and international cement market players have been named in connection to the possible sale of its Philippines operations.

The laid off workers have been picketing since March 6, and a Union representative told BWI “We made our action and picket in front of LH Davao Plant in the morning of the 6th, and by the evening, LafargeHolcim Philippines CEO and President John Stull responded with a statement that LH remains committed to compliance with labour laws and takes the welfare of its people at heart, that it regrets the incident and that they are closely coordinating with their contractor and the relevant government agencies for immediate resolution of the matter.”

The picketing continues.

Ambet Yuson, BWI General Secretary responded: “The BWI is now issuing a call for international solidarity to the workers in Davao. We are calling on the global trade movement including BWI affiliates to send a letter to LH Management to resolve the labour dispute immediately by correcting its labour rights violations.”

BWI affiliates wishing to support the campaign can send protest letters to Mr. Jens Jenisch, CEO, LafargeHolcim.