Philippinesl: Support Toyota workers’ right to an independent union

Toyota, the world’s leading car manufacturer since 2007, prides itself on being “the most admired” one too. The multinational attributes this distinction to its constant concern to satisfy its customers and to its environmental awareness evidenced mainly in the launch of the first hybrid car. The firm’s slogan is a confident: “Today, tomorrow, Toyota”. Yet “today”, as for the past seven years, Toyota is refusing to recognize an independent trade union’s freedom of association and right to collective bargaining in one of its factories in the Philippines, even though these are recognized by Philippine law. “Today” the Philippine army is directly involved in the labour conflict. What hope is there for “tomorrow”? The multinational recently announced that it was planning to upscale its activity substantially by 2012, mainly by expanding production in China, India and Russia. If in these three countries it reproduces the behaviour in the Philippines that we have been denouncing for years, admiration for the multinational is unlikely to last.

Philippines Urgent appeal: Support Toyota workers’ right to an independent union

Appeal n° 314 (6 March to 10 May 2008)

Toyota, the world’s leading car manufacturer since 2007, prides itself on being “the most admired” one too. The multinational attributes this distinction to its constant concern to satisfy its customers and to its environmental awareness evidenced mainly in the launch of the first hybrid car. The firm’s slogan is a confident: “Today, tomorrow, Toyota”. Yet “today”, as for the past seven years, Toyota is refusing to recognize an independent trade union’s freedom of association and right to collective bargaining in one of its factories in the Philippines, even though these are recognized by Philippine law. “Today” the Philippine army is directly involved in the labour conflict. What hope is there for “tomorrow”? The multinational recently announced that it was planning to upscale its activity substantially by 2012, mainly by expanding production in China, India and Russia. If in these three countries it reproduces the behaviour in the Philippines that we have been denouncing for years, admiration for the multinational is unlikely to last.

Toyota set up its first production plant in the Philippines in 1988. From the start the firm flouted its workers’ rights, especially the fundamental right to free association and collective bargaining -indispensable for improving working conditions and complying with labour laws. Ten years later, when the workers decided to form an independent union, the Toyota Motors Philippines Corporation Workers Association (TMPCWA), the firm categorically refused to recognize it.

Seven years of struggle for workers unfairly dismissed

In 1999 the TMPCWA won the trade union elections but the Toyota management refused to recognize these results and tried in every way to challenge their validity. The mediator from the Philippine labour relations bureau and the Labour Minister himself attempted to intervene, but to no avail: Toyota refused to negotiate with the legally elected union. In February 2001, to protest against the firm’s clearly anti-union attitude, the TMPCWA organized a series of peaceful demonstrations outside the ministry. Toyota then decided to sack them, and a total of 233 workers were left without jobs because they had tried to defend their rights. To support their colleagues, workers at the factory organized a strike picket outside Toyota’s two factories in the Philippines and demanded their immediate reinstatement. With the support of the parent company in Japan and of other Japanese multinationals in the Philippines threatening to leave the country if their interests were not protected, Toyota obtained the assistance of the police which, together with private guards, violently dispersed the demonstrators. Yet in 2003 and 2004 the Supreme Court had ruled that the strike was legal, and had enjoined Toyota to agree to collective bargaining. From 2001 to 2006, the ILO’s Committee for Trade Union Freedom issued no fewer than four recommendations urging the Philippine state to ensure that the TMPCWA’s rights were respected. Toyota, clearly supported by the Labour Ministry, seemed nevertheless to remain deaf to the workers’ demands.

Connivance with the Philippine Army

Peuples Solidaires has been supporting the TMPCWA in its struggle for the past few years, and has already launched three Appeals concerning Toyota, in 2004, 2006 and 2007. We are therefore extremely concerned to learn that on 10 January 2008 a military detachment of the 202 infantry brigade of the Philippine army was moved into the area near the TMPCWA offices, in the Pulong Santa Cruz district, officially with the mission of supporting the local population’s development. The untimely visit of three members of this unit to the TMPCWA offices on 24 January and 4 February 2008, and their questioning of union members, suggest renewed attempts to intimidate the union. At the same time, a special police station was set up on the company’s premises to protect Toyota’s Laguna site. The TMPCWA has furthermore learned that the members of the infantry brigade near their offices have free access to the Toyota factories. The TMPCWA fears that the presence of this military force will lead to violence, kidnappings or even murders. The Philippines is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for trade unionists, and the presence of soldiers near a union in conflict does not augur well. “Nothing justifies a military presence in this part of town” explained Ed Cubelo, chairman of the TMPCWA; “the Pulong Santa Cruz community is not known for being a den of criminals or a threat to security, which might have justified something like martial law…”.

The fact that the 202 infantry brigade has tried to make the local population believe that the TMPCWA unionists are actually members of the New People’s Army (NPA), a paramilitary group dependent on the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), considered as a terrorist organization, simply amplifies our fears for the unionists’ safety.

TO KNOW MORE

The march of the “Big Three”
From 3 to 7 March 2008, the three main trade unions in the Philippines – those at Toyota (the TMPCWA), at Nissan and at Nestlé – participated in a five-day march from the south of Luzon (known as the “investment capital”) up to the president’s palace in the centre of Mailla to inform President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of the three multinationals’ anti-union activities.

International solidarity campaign
The struggle of the Philippine workers at Toyota and of the independent TMPCWA has been supported for a number of years by the International Metalworkers Federation and Japanese unions which help the TMPCWA to make its struggle known world-wide. In January 2006 the “Zen-to-union” was created. This is a new union calling all Toyota workers throughout the world to unite.

The TMPCWA website: www.tmpcwa.org

http://www.peuples-solidaires.org/article855.html

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