2 Int'l labor group express concern over workers' plight

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Date of publication: September 16, 2006

Source: Worker's Assistance Center

With negotiation for their demands for improved benefit stalled, union members of a Korean-owned garment factory gets the backing of two international labor groups.

Now labor rights advocates the International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF) in the US and the Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN) in Canada have already express concern with the plight of workers on protests at Chong Won Fashion Inc. (CWFI) operating inside the Cavite Export Processing Zone (CEPZ).

Both ILRF and MSN are now eyeing on pressing two of factory's biggest buyers, the Wal-Mart in the US and GAP, for them to adequately address the workers' grievances. The workers are protesting for unfair labor practices the management is employing and continued refusal to begin negotiations for their collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

The latest drastic action the management has taken against the union was the termination this month of Sellwyn Simpan, the union's shop steward.

Wal-Mart, the biggest retail store in the US, is the factory's buyer since April 2003 until presently. Although GAP has ceased buying since August 2004, there have been attempts where they sought the factory's services but the latter failed the factory standards.

The MSN is a labor and women's rights advocacy organization promoting solidarity with grassroots groups in Americas and now in Asia. To improve working conditions in export processing zones is their core advocacy. The ILRF on the other hand is an advocacy organization dedicated to achieving just and humane treatment for workers worldwide.

On September 15, the dialogue between the union leaders and the management at the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) was again postponed. Representatives from the management did not show up.

While some of the union members started the picket line as they are set to go on strike, there are reports the factory had started hiring job applicants for their replacement.

One of the union leaders of the Nagkakaisang Manggagawa sa Chong Won (United Workers of Chong Won) reported the management started hiring on September 11. At least 150 new applicants have already been hired since.

As of September 13, of the 718 workers at the factory 254 of them are regular rank-and-file employees while 464 are casual employees. Of the total number of workers, only 195 of them had work while the 521 other does not have.