Philippine workers battle German transnational


By Sonny Melencio

MANILA — Temic (Telefunken Microelectronics Incorporated) is a company with around 3500 workers, mostly women, in the microchips industry. The Temic plant in Taguig, Metro Manila, accounts for 80% of German investment in the Philippines.

The workers at Temic went on strike on September 14, 1995, over unfair labour practices and deadlocked negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) issued a return to work order on October 27, 1995, for all workers (except those facing criminal charges — 98 union officers). But the company accepted only 800 workers, and around 1500 were in effect sacked.

The union contested the case of the 98 officers, and the lower court eventually junked the charges against them.

There were already a total of five return-to-work orders from DOLE but the management still would not let the workers in. The latest order, dated November 21, 1996, was a final and executory one, which instructed the sheriff's office to request the assistance of Taguig police if necessary in order to implement the "actual and physical reinstatement" of the 1500 workers.

The Temic Employees Union is under the Free Federation of Workers, headed by Johnny Tan, who is a member of the Lakas-NUCD, President Fidel Ramos' party. The workers came into contact with the socialist workers centre, the BMP (Filipino Workers Solidarity), last August, and since then their struggles have been planned together with the BMP.

In December the struggle was capped by two dramatic actions. One was the December 7 "physical reinstatement" by 956 workers, who forced their way inside the company premises and signed the logbook to show that they were willing to work. They stayed there for a full eight hours, but the management asked the security guards to force them out.

The second action was the "takeover" of the DOLE building. The workers encamped at the building housing the office of the DOLE secretary for 11 days, starting from December 20. They forced their way in while the DOLE staff were having a Christmas party.

Four hundred Temic workers were locked in by security guards after the party, since there were other Temic workers starting to gather outside the building. The air-conditioning system was shut off, telephone lines cut and drinking fountains muddied to force the workers from the building.

Food was passed through the windows by BMP and other workers who staged a vigil outside the building. The workers spent their Christmas inside.

On December 31, at around 12:30 am, a truckload of police encircled the building. A SWAT team forced its way in from the first floor, where the workers were sleeping. They were dragged from the first floor and shoved out of the building; many were injured.

The union president, Liza Dimaano, was grabbed by the throat as police tried to push her out. A 10-year old girl was pulled violently from the embrace of her mother (a Temic worker). A 12-year old boy was dragged down, causing mild shock according to the doctor who attended him later.

The workers were brought to the police headquarters but were released after five hours. They tried to return to DOLE, but were blocked by a phalanx of police and a fire truck.

The next day, a union leader, Danny Madaray, was abducted by gun-wielding men in civilian clothes. He was pushed into a jeep, where he was blindfolded and his diary taken from him. He was told to lie low in his union work; otherwise his entire family and relatives would be killed. He was released after an hour's ride, still blindfolded.

On January 3 and 4, the workers held a vigil near the Malacanang palace. The union officers went to the palace to seek an audience with President Ramos, but were given a letter explaining that the president was busy with more important matters.

The media reported the next day that Ramos referred to the DOLE "takeover" as an act of sedition, and the Temic workers as "terrorists".

The workers then went from one institution to another to press their case for implementation of the DOLE orders. They went to Cardinal Jaime Sin, the archbishop of Manila, who acted on their request by writing a letter to President Ramos.

The workers visited former president Cory Aquino's place, where they got an assurance from Aquino's aide that she would follow up the case. They held a big picket in front of the German embassy and sent a letter to the ambassador asking for support. They also visited the International Labour Organisation's office, where they asked the director to exert pressure on Telefunken.

On January 23, there was a 10,000-strong rally for Temic workers at Mendiola. Barbed wire and road barricades were set up at Mendiola bridge, but the workers just stepped on the wires and overturned the barricades in order to get closer to the palace. They wore T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan, "We win or we die!".

A week later, on January 30, there was another rally of 10,000 in front of the Temic plant.

Solidarity is urgently needed. Messages of support should be sent to: Temic workers c/o BMP, Unit F, 2nd Floor, 921 Aurora Boulevard, cnr Pottsdam St, QC, Metro Manila, Philippines. Phone/fax: 632 437 5604; 632 433 5176. e-mail: Protest messages should be sent to: President Fidel Ramos, Malacanang Palace, Philippines.