April 21, 2004

Interview with J. S. Facundo (Employees Union of Bayer Philippines)

Question: You are accusing BAYER Philippines of having you kicked out because of your union-activities. What is the evidence for this accusation?

Answer: Since the inception of our union in 1987, Employees Union of Bayer Philippines-Federation of Free Workers, I held the top position of the union as president until 2003. Presently I hold the position of vice president of our organization. Numerous cases of "unfair labor practices" acts and other causes of actions against Bayer Philippines were filed in the court. An economic "strike" happened in Bayer Philippines which lasted for two months in 1997. Numerous grievances against Bayer Philippines of various nature were held in the Company level. All these trade actions were warranted under the prevailing conditions and according to existing laws. These all happened during my term.

Here was how the Company acted against me: During the organizational stage of our union in Bayer Philippines, Canlubang, Calamba, Laguna sometimes in 1987 under my leadership, suddenly and without notice on October 5, 1987, the Company transferred me from my place of work in the manufacturing plant in Canlubang, Calamba, Laguna to the head office located in San Juan, Metro-Manila, where Bayer rented for its office as tenant of the building, 50 kilometers away from the plant. My job designation then was the plant's electrical engineer in-charge of the electrical system of the whole plant.

My employment and immaculate record as employee of Bayer Philippines will speak of my performance of my duties and responsibilities to the satisfaction of management since my hiring in September 24, 1973. I maintained the highest paid rank-and-file employee of my time with no derogatory record under my name, until management fired me.

I accused Bayer then of "illegal transfer". As a result of the litigation, the arbitrator of the Department of Labor and Employment of the Republic of the Philippines of the case decided in my favor on July 30, 1994 who subsequently issued a "writ of execution" ordering Bayer Philippines to return me back to the Bayer's manufacturing plant to assume my former position as electrical engineer.

In April 15, 1996, after Bayer Philippines failed to block my transfer against the "order" finally, effected my transfer to its manufacturing plant in Canlubang, Calamba, Laguna with so much delayed period of time. However, Bayer Philippines transferred my "physical presence only " in the plant without giving me back my original job position, as electrical engineer. The union made some representations with the company but to no avail. There was no justified reason presented why the company can not comply fully with the order. I held such status in the Plant as a "floating employee" with no specific job position until my unceremonious termination of employment.

That was April 4, 2000, when the guards manning the manufacturing plant's gate of Bayer Philippines barred me from entering the premises allegedly from the instruction of management. I only learned that it was my termination from employment when the Administration manager informed me in his 4th floor office. Inquired of the reasons of terminating me, it's all about management prerogative.

After my termination, Bayer Philippines advertised in the Company's bulletin board located in its premises; and, an advertisement of the same qualification, licensed electrical engineer in a daily newspaper of general circulation in the country that Bayer Philippines was in need of an applicant of such qualifications. Later, the Company hired a licensed electrical engineer and a practical electrician.

They believed, terminating my employment will put to rest legitimate workers organization's activism.

Why did Bayer Philippines try to minimize the influence of your union EUBP ? In which way did the management help to establish the more moderate REUBP?

EUBP-FFW believed Bayer Philippines does not want an organized workers in the company as obviously illustrated by its gestures in dealing with the legitimate and the illegitimate union. EUBP-FFW being a legitimate labor organization complied with the regulations mandated by law particularly the Labor Code of the Philippines as to its institutional requirements and at the same time bound by its organizational social responsibilities to serve only one master, its members.

Obviously, management in one way and another has assisted the formation of REUBP with the following circumstances:

1.) middle managers assisted its leaders facilitate its organizational activities, i.e., meetings, signature gathering, convincing rank-and-file members in joining membership in REUBP;

2.) management allows free access on company time of its leaders, particularly the core group in its organizational activities to roam the territorial scope of operation in the country to meet the prospective workers, sacrificing their individual job productivities of the Company;
3.) gave financial assistance;

4.) Bayer's recognition to REUBP as the bargaining representative of its workers despite legal defects against its existence without any logical and legal justifications ;

5.) Company manager's leniency in accomodating its leaders interrupt business meetings, just only to speak with the rank-and-file employees-participants for a union campaign.

Is it true that Bayer has sponsored seminars where there was agitation against unions? How did this agitation look like?

Answer : On August 3, 1998, Bayer Philippines organized a seminar / symposium in a place in San Juan, Metro-Manila, about 50 kilometers distance from its head office in Canlubang, Calamba, Laguna. This symposium was attended by worker-members of the EUBP-FFW obliged to attend by middle managers. The meeting was purportedly on "national security", while on actuality its about "communism" in the labor movement. Facilitated by an alleged come-backing former communist rebel. After the seminar-meeting, union members who attended the meeting were sorely scared on how communism operates within labor organizations, many members has expressed disaffiliation from membership. Several members with a brave heart come to the open & executed testimonies regarding this company's sponsored activity.

EUBP-FFW, for its part filed a case of an anti-union activities, "Unfair Labor Practice" acts against Bayer Philippines with the National Labor Relations Commission docketed NLRC NCR Case No. 00-09-07564-98, dated September 15, 1998.

How strong are the Philippine unions? Do they have the power to fight for the rights of workers or have they enough influence?

Answer : Organized labor in the Philippines has enough power to fight for workers' rights domestically, as there are sufficient laws protecting such rights. However, with the onset of the change of economic landscape brought by the global trade, somehow affects the enforcement of labor laws; seemingly, the somewhat recognized heightened level of influence tapered down with respect to the countervailing much influential interest of social partners.

For several years there has been an international movement against globalization. Did this movement lead to a better relations between the Philippines and European/American unions?

Answer : Somehow, global unions are now gradually coordinating and closing ranks. They realized the need to do so. We look forward then, when local unions can operate and be recognized of their rights internationally at the auspices of the International Labor Organization along with their stakeholders in the same way their social partners are presently operating under the global trade.

How important would a worker's movement be that speaks for the workers in the Philippines as well as for the workers in Europe and America? What should be the aim of such a movement- the abolition of double standards for example?

Answer : I believe, the best determination in the standards on the protection of labor rights is the standard set in the various conventions of the International Labor Organization. Most of the labor movement's issues in their respective countries were caused by the gaps encountered in the implementation of labor standards, and the social injustices. There is now a need to let government of countries adopt and enforce the ILO conventions to eliminate the double standards application of labor rights protection laws if only to achieve the desired industrial peace and the humanization of the current structural adjustments.

Consolidation of workers' movement internationally can certainly make a difference on the status quo conditions in the international vacuum both on workers' social protection and the promotion of worker's right . This international worker's movement could pave the way of galvanizing a countervailing force against the business strategies employed by most influential and powerful multinational enterprises of whose practices the ultimate victim are the defenseless workers.

These consolidated workers' movement may compliment or reinforce in any way the corporate social responsibility programs and advocacies of UN in its global compact, the Social Accountability 8000 of US and the OECD guidelines on MNE's in Europe.

Juanito Facundo wanted to attend Bayer´s shareholder meeting in Cologne/Germany on April 30th to adress Bayer´s board and shareholders. But Facundo was denied a visa by the German Embassy in Manila.