Senate probe into NutriAsia, PLDT labor woes sought


Posted at Jul 31 2018 04:07 PM | Updated as of Jul 31 2018 08:58 PM

PLDT's contractual employees hold a protest in front of the firm's office in Manila, July 2, 2018. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - A senator on Tuesday urged the Senate to look into labor issues of workers from condiment giant NutriAsia and major telecommunications firm PLDT. 

Senator Joel Villanueva, chair of the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources development, filed the resolution following Monday's violent dispersal of striking NutriAsia workers.

"It is regrettable that the NutriAsia case rooted in contractualization and its abuses has to drag and result in termination of workers, violent dispersals of picket lines, injuries and arrests of workers," he said. 

Workers of the NutriAsia factory have been on strike for weeks, protesting the firm's alleged engagement in labor-only contracting, low wages, and poor working conditions.

Aside from injuries, the dispersal at the NutriAsia picket line in Bulacan, where the protesters gathered in a Mass, also resulted in the arrest of some workers and supporters of their cause. 

In a statement, NutriAsia claimed the workers threw rocks and even fired a gun in the air prompting security forces to disperse them.

"Around 200 striking workers of Toll Packer BMirk and their supporters, fired a shot in the air and started to hurl rocks at police and guards," the firm said.

However, video captured by the League of Filipino Students showed rocks were hurled at the direction of the protesters who were running away. 

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The Philippine National Police, meanwhile, said its response to the incident was "strictly governed" by rules of engagement. 

"Nonetheless, the Regional Internal Affairs Service has been directed to conduct its own probe to determine whether these standards of police response have been strictly observed in this particular incident and to recommend necessary corrective measures and sanctions against our police personnel if so warranted," it said in a statement.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said it has dispatched a team to investigate the incident as it expressed concern over the wounded and arrested protesters.

It reminded authorities to observe maximum tolerance and warned protesters against resorting to violent and unlawful acts.

"This incident hence reiterates the importance of an expedient and peaceful resolution of issues by DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) and other concerned agencies that recognizes the rights and dignity of all," it said.

Workers of PLDT, meanwhile, have been protesting the telco giant's refusal to follow an order from the Department of Labor and Employment to regularize its 7,000 employees.

DOLE already junked PLDT's appeal on the regularization order but the firm elevated the case to the Court of Appeals, saying parts of the decision were "inconsistent" with the law. 

"PLDT and NutriAsia are the more prominent cases on enforcement and compliance issues, and there are more cases of similar nature all over the country. We need to investigate because these cases highlight the weaknesses of our current regulatory framework," said Villanueva, who is pushing for the Security of Tenure Bill.