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Filipino church group backs rights of dismissed nutrition company workers

The Church People-Workers Solidarity (CWS) made public today its support of 140 workers dismissed by Wyeth Nutrition Philippines.

"The illegal dismissal of 140 workers is an attack on workers' right to organize and form a union," the group said in a statement. "CWS supports Nestlé-Wyeth workers in their right to unionize."

The group claimed that workers were "suddenly" refused entry into the company's plant in Canlubang, Laguna, on May 18 without prior notice.

Laguna is a province about 100 kilometers south of Manila, the country's capital.

"The management then announced the dismissal of 125 rank-and-file workers, 14 supervisors, one manager, and ten union officers," the group said.

The group branded the company's action as a "blatant attack" on workers' right to organize, taking place months after the government welcomed "a high-level" tripartite mission by the International Labor Organization early this year.

In that high-level tripartite mission, "the government expressed its willingness to address serious violations and gaps in the implementation of its obligations under the ILO Convention No. 87 or the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Rights to Organize Convention," the group said. "This also comes a few months after President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. signed on April 30 Executive Order No. 23 Reinforcing and Protecting the Freedom of Association and Right to Organize of Workers."

The executive order also established an inter-agency committee to boost coordination and hasten the probe, prosecution, and resolution of cases.

"CWS is saddened that the policies implemented by the government are being openly transgressed by big multinational corporations," the group said. "CWS calls on the Marcos, Jr. administration and the Department of Labor and Employment to swiftly intervene to resolve this labor issue and bring justice to the workers."

The group has also called on church people to stand with the workers.

In a statement on Friday, Wyeth Nutrition Philippines said there was a dialogue between the company and union officers and has encouraged them to ask their members to enter the plant.

The firm also said it had informed its employees that the Canlubang plant would undergo organizational restructuring to keep the company running despite challenging market conditions.

"No lock-out was implemented by Wyeth management," the firm said in the statement. "We fully respect our employees' rights, including the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly."

The nutrition firm also said it would offer separation packages "superior to what the law requires" to mitigate the impact of layoffs on employees.

The firm reportedly offers severance packages of up to 250 percent of the monthly payment for each year of service, covering employees who are now more than 20 years working for them. For employees under 20 years, the company would offer from 150 percent to 200 percent of the monthly pay per year of service.

"The new organizational structure is necessary and vital to delivering operational efficiencies at the factory," the firm said. "In our efforts, we are committed to supporting our people while seeing to the health of the business."- Oliver  Samson


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