US companies express alarm over priest’s slay

Manila Bulletin

At least seven big foreign-owned companies, including Wal-Mart, have expressed alarm over cases of killings, violence and attacks against workers on strike in Cavite.

In their joint letter on Nov. 7 to President Arroyo, the companies — American Eagle Outfitters, Gap Inc., Jones Apparel Group, Liz Claiborne Inc., PVH, Polo Ralph Lauren and Wal-Mart, expressed alarm on behalf of their companies over the "violent attacks on striking workers and the assaults and killings of labor rights promoters."

"We urge your [government] to take proactive measures for ensuring the physical safety and for protecting the rights of workers and labor rights promoters," the group said.

The signatories referred to the killing of prominent Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) Bishop Alberto Ramento Jr. on Oct. 3, attempt on the life of labor leader Gerardo Cristobal on April 28, and the violent attacks against two workers unions on strike inside the economic zone in Rosario, Cavite since Sept. 25.

At the time of his death, Bishop Ramento was the chairman of the board of the Workers’ Assistance Center Inc. (WAC). Cristobal was a former union president of the Japanese-owned EDS Manufacturing inc. (EMI-YAZAKI) and member of the Solidarity of Cavite Workers (SCW), an alliance of labor unions in Cavite.

The group is also disturbed regarding the alleged direct involvement by elements of the Rosario Police, Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) police, and private security forces in the violent attacks against the workers’ on strike.

The workers on strike are all members and union officers of the Nagkakaisang Manggagawa sa Chong Won (NMCW) and Kaisahan ng mga Manggagawa sa Phils Jeon (KMPJ).

The joint letter also expressed concern on the PEZA’s "banning of workers on strike from the Cavite Export Processing Zone (CEPZ)."

"As companies that seek to source in countries, and from suppliers that share our commitment to ensuring the respect for workers’ rights, we believe that local human and labor rights non-governmental organization (NGOs) can play an important role by partnering with manufacturers and governmental entities as well as suppliers and companies to help improve labor practices and working conditions," officials of the companies said in their letter to President Arroyo. (PR)