Tag Archives: International Union of Food Agricultural Hotel Restaurant Catering Tobacco and Allied Workers Association (IUF)

International trade union calls for firm EU action on imported Philippines tuna tainted with human rights violations

An international trade union delegation comprising the IUF, the IUF European regional organization EFAT-IUF, the Norwegian Food Workers’ Union NNN and two members of a trade union from General Santos City in the Philippines which is leading the fight to ensure respect for international human rights standards in the country’s massive tuna industry, will be in Brussels on April 24 for talks with the EU’s Directorate General for Trade.

Under the EU’s GSP+ system, tuna exports from the Philippines receive tariff-free entry into the European market on condition that minimum rights standards are respected. To date, there has been little progress.

In 2013, the Citra Mina Group of Companies, among the largest tuna exporters in General Santos, terminated hundreds of workers for exercising their human right to form a trade union. Their fight for rights, recognition and reinstatement continues to this day, and has become the Philippines’ longest-running high-profile labour conflict.

In 2015, congressional hearings in the Philippines detailed the Citra Mina Group’s pattern of abuses: systematic violations of labour standards and trade union rights,rampant abuse of precarious employment and shell companies to evade legal obligations, slave-like conditions on boats and deaths on the high seas. Hundreds of trafficked crew members detaining for illegal fishing in Indonesian waters have received no assistance from the company. This year, Congressional Representative Tom Villarin cited the entrenched pattern of rights violations by Citra Mina as a cruel symptom of the government’s failure to enforce respect for the international human rights standards it has signed onto and pledged to implement. And Citra Mina, he said, was only the tip of the iceberg. The government’s failure to hold Citra Mina to account for these violations is the subject of a complaint before the United Nations’ ILO Committee on Freedom of Association submitted by the IUF last year.

The IUF insists that the EU can make much more effective use of the mechanisms established under GSP+, and that it has a clear responsibility to take firm action in defense of the industry’s workers order to raise standards for the fishing sector as a whole.

The unions will also be bringing this message to the annual Brussels Seafood Expo the following day, the world’s largest commercial sea food fair where both Citra Mina and the government of Philippines will be participating.

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The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) is an international trade union federation composed of 427 trade unions in 127 countries representing over 10 million workers.It is based in Geneva, Switzerland.

Citra Mina under intensifying global scrutiny!

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Citra Mina workers on Labor Day in General Santos City May 1, 2015

Manila – The IUF Asia Pacific, the regional organization of the food workers’ international, today announced that one of the biggest fisheries companies in Japan that also imports tuna from General Santos has launched an investigation into the human rights violations of Citra Mina.

This does not auger well for the tuna industry in General Santos City. It becomes critical for the industry stakeholders that workers’ rights are upheld.

This development comes at a time that the Director General of Trade of the European Commission is also sending a trade delegation to the Philippines from 29 June to 3 July 2015 to monitor the country’s implementation of its commitments under the EU GSP Plus programme. The delegation is set to visit General Santos City and to meet with SENTRO, one of IUF’s affiliates in the Philippines that has been helping Citra Mina workers fight for their rights.

The Directorate General for Trade of the European Commission is in charge of implementing the common trade policy of the European Union.

“The potential damage to the reputation of the tuna industry in the Philippines must not be underestimated”, Dr. Hidayat Greenfield, regional Secretary of the IUF Asia Pacific said. “All this because Citra Mina will not reinstate workers unfairly dismissed for forming a union. It is a very big mistake that could cost the tuna industry of General Santos and ultimately the people of General Santos,” he added.

“What we need is for Citra Mina to do the right thing by reinstating the workers and recognize the union. That would set us on a firm course for a sustainable tuna industry that restores the reputation of General Santos. ” Dr. Greenfield said.

Citra Mina is the 2nd largest seafood exporter in the Philippines. It has been under increasing pressure after the IUF launched a global campaign last June 2014 in support of the call for justice for the workers of Citra Mina. The workers are being organized by SENTRO.

Belgian union activists hound Citra Mina in int’l seafood expo

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PROVING the long – or global – arm of the labor movement, Belgian trade unionists picketed the international seafood trade event in Brussels and “visited” the Philippine pavilion to protest the participation of Citra Mina’s Philfresh Corp. for its blatant disregard for the workers’ rights and welfare.

Members of the General Federation of Belgian Labor (ABVV-FGTB) demonstrated outside the expo venue, distributed leaflets, talked to Philippine fishery and agriculture representatives (BFAR and DA), and waited for Citra Mina delegates to express their dismay over the systematic violations of labor and trade union rights in Citra Mina.

“This is just the start of a global action against Citra Mina. If it would not mend its ways – reinstate the workers it illegally sacked to bust the union, pay them backwages and recognize their union, etc. – this ‘rotten apple’ could even drag the whole Philippine tuna industry down with it,” Josua Mata, SENTRO secretary general, warned.

Mata revealed that the said solidarity-protest action of the ABVV-FGTB has likely attracted the attention of the European Union (EU), which should raise a concern from the Philippine fish exporters as the country was recently given GSP or Generalized System of Preferences Plus benefits, notably tariff privileges.

But the GSP Plus requires a country to adhere to 27 international conventions, including the ILO Core Labor Standards, many of which are brazenly violated by Citra Mina, Mata noted.

Among the growing list of Citra Mina’s “crimes” are the arbitrary termination of 238 workers in 2013 for organizing a union, various threats against striking workers and union supporters, purported “disappearances” onboard fishing vessels of workers who complain of company abuses, unsafe and slave-like working conditions, blacklisting to keep workers in line, forced labor, rampant use of labor and fishing subcontracting called “cabo” system, alleged human trafficking and illegal fishing.

Citra Mina’s cabo and illegal fishing practices have in fact resulted to the most recent controversy involving this increasingly notorious firm: Its contracted out fishing boat’s 43 fishermen were abandoned in a prison facility in Indonesia after they were apprehended last August. They were freed and repatriated back to the country in late February but only after a joint campaign by SENTRO and the global union IUF, and in coordination with the Philippine government.

The Citra Mina Group of Companies is a top General Santos City-based fishing and fish/seafood processing company owned by the family of Joaquin T. Lu. It is also the country’s second biggest tuna exporter under the Philfresh brand.

The Seafood Expo Global/Seafood Processing Global is the world’s largest seafood trade fair conducted annually and attended by more than 1,700 exhibiting companies from over 75 countries. This year’s expo runs from April 21-23.

SENTRO is the national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa; while the Geneva-based IUF is the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations.

Labor dispute in Coca-Cola escalates

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heycokeWORKERS belonging to 14 unions in seven Coca-Cola plants and warehouses across the country will stage 2-hour pickets today as part of their planned series of coordinated actions to protest the increasing anti-labor and anti-union policies of the Coca-Cola Femsa Philippines’ management.

“We have had enough of Coca-Cola Femsa’s lack of respect for workers’ and trade union rights,” Alfredo Marañon, president of the Federation and Cooperation of Cola, Beverage and Allied Industry Unions (FCCU), said. “And if Coca-Cola Femsa will not mend its ways, we will be forced to escalate our actions,” Marañon added.

The protesters are comprised of separate Coca-Cola unions of rank and file daily, monthly and sales workers. They work in Coke’s facilities in Davao City; Bacolod City; Pavia, Iloilo; Canlubang, Calamba City, Laguna; Meycauyan City, Bulacan; City of San Fernando, Pampanga; and City of Ilagan, Isabela, Tagbilaran City.

Marañon, concurrent president of the San Fernando Coca-Cola Rank and File Union (SACORU), decried the management’s continuing refusal to openly provide basic company information required by law, particularly financial statements, which are needed by the workers and their unions in CBA (collective bargaining agreement) negotiations.

This and other “bargaining in bad faith” practices have unnecessarily resulted to CBA negotiation deadlocks between management and two incumbent unions in the Davao and Canlubang plants. The unions of Coca-Cola south sales force – encompassing the provinces south of Metro Manila – and in the Bacolod plant are also accusing the local managements of blatant CBA violations.

Unions in Davao and Bacolod are now strike bound. Those in Canlubang are about to join them soon. “The management’s use of ‘red baiting’ and threats failed to stop workers from overwhelmingly voting to go on strike,” Marañon said.

In addition, Marañon disclosed that Femsa has imposed its “Project Frequency” that now threatens the sales force workers in Antipolo, Lagro, Batangas and other areas.

At the same time, Femsa has outsourced the payroll system and implemented the work shifting method by replacing the long-time company practice of “calendar method,” which both caused not only chaotic salary payment and work schedules but resulted also to income losses due to unpaid hours of work.

“It is about time for Femsa to scrap this disastrous practice of outsourcing even a key administrative and regular function of payroll payment, and to revert back to the calendar method to ensure that there will be no income loss or reduction,” Marañon said.

Ironically, Femsa, the world’s second largest bottler of Coca-Cola, has proudly announced only last November that it will infuse additional $500 million investments in the country or a total of $1.7 billion by the end of 2015. It also claimed that since taking over the CCBPI’s majority stake in 2013, Femsa Philippines has “created nearly 2,000 jobs in the country,” now among the reported 8,000 employees working in 22 Coca-Cola plants nationwide.

“To prove its boast, Coca-Cola Femsa Philippines must ensure that labor and trade union rights are respected, where workers enjoy the fruits of their labor, job security is maintained, and trade unions are not suppressed,” Marañon said.

FCCU is an affiliate of the national labor center SENTRO (Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa) and the global union IUF (International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations).

SENTRO brings home 43 fishermen left by Citra Mina in Indonesia; demands compensation for all the ‘abandoned’ as Congress sets to investigate Citra Mina

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43 fishermen detained in Indonesia arrive in Manila airport

 

WELCOME home and let the “fight” begin.

After almost six months of being abandoned by their employer – the giant fishing firm Citra Mina – and left to rot in a detention facility in Ternate Island, Indonesia, the 43 fishermen are now in Manila before going back to General Santos City.

The “abandonados” arrived onboard Cebu Pacific flight 5J 760 at 5:30 a.m. today in NAIA from Jakarta bringing with them harrowing experience following the seizure of their boat Love Merben II off the coast of Indonesia for alleged illegal fishing last Aug. 26.

“Mission accomplished,” Herbert Demos, SENTRO staff who went to Indonesia as part of the rescue team, announced. “All Filipino crew of Love Merben II accounted for,” he reported.

The rescue campaign was led by the national labor center SENTRO and the global union IUF, and in coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs DFA).

Demos arrived in Ternate Island on Feb. 20 to ensure that all 43 fishermen are issued their tickets and travel documents. What he witnessed in the island shocked him.

“I am poor, and was raised in poverty, but I cannot eat what our compatriots were eating in Ternate. The rice they ate had more rice weevils (lice) than rice grains, but they had no choice. I learned that sometimes they quarreled over food because of extreme hunger. What is painful, too, is that they were never visited by our consulate personnel in Manado,” Demos said.

SENTRO asserted that ultimately Citra Mina is to blame for all that the fishermen have gone through.

“Citra Mina should compensate all the fishermen for the whole time they were stuck in Ternate Island,” Josua Mata, SENTRO secretary general, stressed, adding that “Citra Mina should also be investigated for its alleged involvement in illegal fishing.”

Rep. Walden Bello of Akbayan has pushed for a congressional inquiry on Citra Mina’s alleged labor and human rights violations and its culpability in what had happened to the 43 fishermen. A hearing was set on March 18.

This morning, the repatriated fishermen are scheduled to meet with Jesus Yabes, DFA’s Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs.

They are set to fly to General Santos tomorrow morning where a big welcome celebration awaits them.

SENTRO is the national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa.The Geneva-based IUF is the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations. Its Asia-Pacific regional office extended much needed help in the rescue efforts.

The 43 abandoned fisherfolk are Felix G. Ababon Jr., Reynaldo A. Ano-os, Joemer G. Ababon, Dennis A. Ave, Clayde G. Batelante, James D. Bermil, Julie A. Curay, Jonald B. Caliso, Arnel Ariel D. Cezar, Aries S. Cezar.

Marjun S. Columnas, Alvin S. Flora, Jovanie S. Flora, Warren S. Flora, Leonardo L. Flores, Marcelino E. Gumera, Eugene S. Hunan, Loreno B. Ignacio, Jhon James Q. Inantay, Adonis A. Janohan.

Cecilio S. Lerin Jr., Antonio B. Robledo, Joe Michael F. Maambong, Jomer S. Mongosera, Edsel M. Mamugay, Jerwin T. Mahinay, Carl Philip S. Maybuena, Edilito G. Maybuena, Alberto S. Pasco, Leopoldo P. Poliquit Jr.

Antonio R. Quiban Jr., Harry A. Redoble, Joey R. Robledo, Jojo S. Ricafort, Archie S. Senina, Noel S. Walog, Kevin Mark R. Saturos, Emmanuel S. Senina, Roberto C. Senina, Edimar S. Sinena, Edgar S. Sigudan, Rolando S. Sayson, and Rodel D. Toyco.

43 Filipino fisherfolk abandoned in Indonesia by Citra Mina to be rescued

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Citra Mina workers in Indonesia

 

FORTY-THREE Filipino fishermen who were abandoned by Citra Mina when their boat, Love Merben II were apprehended off the coast of Indonesia last year, will be repatriated next week after an intense “rescue campaign” led by SENTRO and IUF.

Families and co-workers of the imprisoned fishermen bemoaned that Citra Mina, who they believe financed the fishing expedition of Love Merben II, did not even lift a finger to assist the hapless workers.

Citra Mina is the giant General Santos City-based fishing firm and the country’s second biggest tuna exporter under the Philfresh and other brands. It is notorious for not respecting workers’ rights. Owned by the wealthy Lu family, the company started to hog the headlines when it illegally terminated 237 of its workers in August 2013 as part of its effort to bust the union.

Josua Mata, Secretary General of SENTRO, described the mass termination as a “brazen and illegal move to bust the fledgling union – a blatant violation of the workers’ right to organize.”

The cases against the Citra Mina management are still pending.

The SENTRO also accuses Citra Mina of perpetrating alleged “human rights violations,” including purported “disappearances” of workers who complain of company abuses.

The Love Merben II was seized by Indonesian authorities last Aug. 26 and the crew members, who were reportedly undocumented or with no IDs and passports, were brought to a detention facility in Ternate Island, Indonesia. The plight of the forsaken fishermen only surfaced when their families and friends began asking help to locate them. Some union members in Citra Mina later learned about it and requested assistance from SENTRO, to which the local union is affiliated. SENTRO, in turn, relayed the information to the international union IUF.

SENTRO and the IUF’s Asia-Pacific regional office then launched a campaign to free the Filipino fishermen, including urging the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to appeal to the Indonesian government for the immediate release of the fishermen.

After nearly 6 months the fishermen will finally return home to the Philippines. Their return poses the question of why Citra Mina, whose massive profits rely on fishing crews like the crew of the Love Merben II, abandoned them for half a year and failed to take any responsibility.

“This demonstrates a pattern of abuse of workers’ human rights throughout the Citra Mina supply chain from fishermen to fish processing workers,” Dr. Hidayat Greenfield, Acting Regional Secretary of the IUF Asia Pacific, said.

SENTRO is the national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa; while the Geneva-based IUF is the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations.

Youths warn of trending ‘zero hour’ job contracts

ff009VALENTINE’S Day was celebrated today by youth members of the Alliance of Progressive Labor by picketing a bustling McDonald’s outlet in Quezon City as part of the Philippine leg of the international campaign against “zero hour” work contracts.

Activists of the APL-Youth, an affiliate of the national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO), staged their protest outside the McDonald’s branch near MRT Quezon Ave. station to denounce the global fast food chain giant’s penchant for contractualization and other precarious work arrangements like the zero hour job practices.

According to the global union IUF zero hour contracts are those with no specified work hours and which do not guarantee jobs or income, but which are now becoming rampant in the rapidly expanding fast food industry. The IUF is supporting the campaign by the Unite Union New Zealand against zero-hour work.

Young workers are particularly vulnerable under these exploitative contracts since they comprise the bulk of the fast food workforce throughout the world, the IUF said, adding that “workers on zero hour contracts live with the uncertainty of how much they will earn each month (and the unpredictability of) when and if they will get work.”

The US-based McDonald’s is the world’s largest chain of fast food restaurants – in 2012 it has already over 34,000 hamburger joints serving 68 million customers daily in 119 countries and territories, enabling it to amass $27.6 billion in revenues and $5.5 billion in net income – but it also pioneered and systematized the use of contractual labor, especially among the youth, in the multibillion dollar fast food industry.

A 2012 BBC study reported that McDonald’s is also the world’s second largest private employer (behind the US retail firm behemoth Walmart) with 1.9 million workers, “1.5 million of whom work for franchises” – a tactic that enables McDonald’s to perpetuate contractual labor and amass superprofits.

McDonald’s rampant practices of hiring workers with low salaries, few benefits and no security of tenure – as well as its rabid resistance to labor unions – to ensure bigger profits have prompted even the venerable international dictionaries Merriam-Webster’s, Random House Webster’s and Oxford English to coin or list the word “McJob” to denote a “low-paying” or “low-quality” job.

McDonald’s anti-worker and anti-union practices have also been widely imitated and intensified by both global and local brands in the fast food industry, including its American competitors Burger King, Wendy’s, KFC, among others, as well as homegrown fast food restaurants led by Jollibee.

The country’s top fast food chain, Jollibee is also notorious for its low pays and routine use of “endo” – acronym for “end-of-contract” workers or those with short-term and unprotected work contracts, which are also called “5-5-5” scheme where workers are endlessly hired and fired every five months to prevent them from having permanent or regular employment status.

The Geneva-based IUF is the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations.

Unions press for better treatment, policies for hotel housekeepers

CONTINUING the initial salvo fired during the recent Bonifacio Day rally, activists from the trade unions and other mass organizations pressed anew for better treatment and policies for hotel housekeepers by picketing today the office of the national association of hotel housekeeping managers in Manila.

Led by members of NUWHRAIN-APL-SENTRO, the protesters urged the officials of the Executive Housekeepers Association of the Philippines (EHAP) to heed their demands aimed at addressing the plight of the “overworked, underpaid, abused and perpetually contractual” hotel housekeeping staff.

The picket coincided with the observance of the National Human Rights Awareness Week, which includes the International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10, to reiterate the call that “workers’ rights are human rights.”

Members of EHAP – quite a misnomer since it is actually composed of managerial personnel – are usually the direct supervisors of “true” housekeepers; thus, the former are the first-line implementors of unjust and harmful practices against the housekeepers in the HRCT (hotel, restaurant, catering and tourism) industry.

NUWHRAIN noted that the campaign obviously targets also the top management and employers in the hospitality industry, specifically in the hotel sector, and not merely their subordinates among the EHAP executives.

This drive is part of the international campaign dubbed “Make Up My Workplace,” which was started last year by the global union IUF because of the worsening plight of hundreds of thousands of housekeepers – majority are women and many are migrants – in the booming hotel industry around the world.

Despite their equally important functions and the regular nature of their work, hotel housekeepers more often get lower wages and fewer benefits; but have heavier workloads, more prone to workplace hazards and sexual harassment or outright assaults, and typically remains contractual – effectively denying them the economic and political gains that may be enjoyed by regular workers, including the right to join a union and to receive additional rights and benefits from a collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

The IUF lamented that the job of hotel housekeepers are seen as “unskilled” which justify their lower wages, although they: work lifting heavy loads (regularly lifting king-sized and larger mattresses); work within strict time limits (15 or even 12 minutes to clean a room) and unreasonable quotas or number of rooms to be cleaned each shift (15 or as high as 30); use toxic chemicals and cleaning solvents; operate commercial sized vacuum cleaners; and perform 10 to 15 different cleaning tasks in one shift.

NUWHRAIN added that some hotels do not have trolleys forcing the housekeepers to carry or put in a bag on their backs heavy linens, towels, cleaning materials and tools, which frequently cause back pain, slip disc, joint and knee problems.

This blatant disregard for or violation of occupational safety and health standards (OSHS) may result not only to temporary injury but also to permanent disability of the workers, NUWHRAIN warned.

It added that the hotels’ “closed door” policy coupled with requiring chambermaids to wear miniskirts while cleaning the room may make them vulnerable to sexual harassment or actual rape from some guests.

Looking down on the value of work of the housekeepers as merely “auxiliary” or “non-essential” – plus the selfish motive to amass bigger profits – hotel employers, led by the global hotel chains, resort to contracting out housekeeping services from outsourcing agencies, NUWHRAIN added.

Thus, a NUWHRAIN study showed that housekeepers with regular or permanent employment comprised only of less than 20 percent of the total number of housekeepers in all 5-star international hotel chains in Metro Manila.

Included in this global campaign are the demands for the ILO (International Labor Organization), the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization), the national governments, and hotel companies to promptly address these issues and concerns of the housekeepers in the hospitality industry.

Foremost of these demands are the regularization of employment of housekeepers, strict observance of OSHS, wages and benefits befitting their permanent work status, clear measures to prevent sexual harassments in workplaces, among others.

NUWHRAIN is the National Union of Workers in Hotel, Restaurant and Allied Industries, which is affiliated to the IUF, the APL or Alliance of Progressive Labor and the national labor center SENTRO (Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa). The Geneva-based IUF is the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations.

 

Hotel workers celebrate Nov. 30 by kicking off int’l ‘good housekeeping’ drive

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HOTEL housekeepers have chosen today’s 151st birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio, the country’s working class and revolutionary hero, as the launch pad for the Philippine leg of the global campaign for the rights, dignity and safe work of most housekeeping staff who are overworked, underpaid, abused and trapped in an unending contractual status.

Dubbed “Make Up My Workplace,” this initiative was started last year by the global union IUF because of the worsening plight of hundreds of thousands of housekeepers – majority are women and many are migrants – in the booming hotel industry around the world.

Despite their pivotal role in this sector, hotel housekeepers are described by the IUF as the “unseen victims of working conditions” that later “forced them to prematurely” quit work “with broken bodies, condemned to poverty.”

The IUF explained that “housekeeping in hotels and cleaning … (are) often described as ‘unskilled’ (which) apparently justifies relatively lower wages. Yet housekeepers work lifting heavy loads (regularly lifting king-sized and larger mattresses on their own); work within strict time limits (15 minutes to clean a room and in some cases 12 minutes); meeting quotas of the number of rooms cleaned each shift (on average 15 and as high as 30); using toxic chemicals and cleaning solvents; operating commercial sized vacuum cleaners; while carrying out 10 to 15 different cleaning tasks in one shift.”

NUWHRAIN, the hotel workers’ federation, added that ignoring the occupational safety and health standards (OSHS) for housekeepers are detrimental to the workers which may lead to injury at work or disability.

For instance, some hotels do not have trolleys forcing the housekeepers to carry heavy linens, towels and others causing back pain, slip disc, joint and knee problems, NUWHRAIN said.

It added that the hotels’ “closed door” policy and requiring chambermaids to wear miniskirts while cleaning the room may make them vulnerable to sexual harassment if not outright assaults from some guests.

Looking down on the value of work of the housekeepers (as merely auxiliary or non-essential) and at the same time to amass bigger profits, hotel employers – led by the global hotel chains – resort to contracting out housekeeping services from outsourcing firms, NUWHRAIN revealed.

Thus, a NUWHRAIN study showed that housekeepers with regular or permanent employment comprised only of less than 20 percent of the total number of housekeepers in all 5-star international hotel chains in Metro Manila.

The IUF further reported that the “disregard for the value of work of housekeepers, combined with the lower wages of precarious workers, leads to increased workloads and reduced staffing. Increasingly (they) work alone with excessive workloads and unsafe conditions. Many … report sexual harassment and intimidation increased as a result of working alone. One major international hotel chain even abolished carts for housekeepers in Manila. They must carry all of the cleaning materials and tools in a bag on their backs.”

Included in this global campaign are the demands for the ILO (International Labor Organization), the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization), the national governments, and hotel companies to promptly address these issues and concerns of the housekeepers in the hospitality industry.

Foremost of these demands are the regularization of employment of housekeepers, strict observance of OSHS, wages and benefits befitting their permanent work status, clear measures to prevent sexual harassments in workplaces, among others.

NUWHRAIN is the National Union of Workers in Hotel, Restaurant and Allied Industries, which is affiliated to the IUF and the national labor center SENTRO (Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa). The Geneva-based IUF is the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations.

PH fast food workers form alliance; US counterparts attend launching

WORKERS from the country’s leading fast food chains linked up with trade union, youth and community organizations in an initial step to establishing an alliance that would push for the rights and welfare of fast food workers, which are rampantly violated and neglected.

About 50 mostly young people employed in various branches in Metro Manila of top fast food establishments along with trade union and youth activists participated in their inaugural whole-day meeting in Quezon City yesterday dubbed “Happy Camp” – a pun on McDonald’s Happy Meal.

Provisionally called Respect Fast Food Workers Alliance, the group plans to expand its membership to as many fast food joints as possible and to eventually extend its reach to other key areas in Luzon as well as in the Visayas and Mindanao.

The assembly delegates came from homegrown sister companies Jollibee – the Philippines’ No. 1 fast food restaurant – Chowking, Mang Inasal and Greenwich Pizza; along with local franchises of US-based global firms McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and Shakey’s Pizza.

Two McDonald’s workers from the US representing the Fight for $15 movement’s chapter in Los Angeles, California attended the launching to express their solidarity to their Filipino colleagues while sharing their experiences in working in America’s similarly exploitative fast food industry and their efforts to organize themselves to effectively address their plight.

The Fight for $15 started in New York last year when employees from different McDonald’s branches held successive strikes against low salaries, but which later spread to other US cities and evolved into a national movement of fast food and retail workers who are campaigning for $15 an hour living wage and the right to form a union without management retaliation.

McDonald’s, the world’s largest fast food chain, pioneered the widespread use and abuse of contractual labor in the multibillion-dollar fast food industry – setting off today’s familiar hiring of mostly youthful workers with low wages, scarce benefits and no security of tenure, or derisively called “McJobs” – and also became infamous for its almost fanatical resistance to trade unions.

Boosting the demands and lawsuits filed by the Fight for $15, the US National Labor Relations Board ruled last July 29 that McDonald’s could be named as a “joint employer” in several complaints of labor rights’ violations even at restaurants owned and operated by its franchisees, which account for the vast majority of McDonald’s over 14,000 joints in the US.

It signifies that McDonald’s – and other unscrupulous fast food companies for that matter – could no longer “hide behind its franchisees” and to feign innocence for the long list of abusive acts against McDonald’s workers, including those not directly employed by the corporation but by its numerous franchisees or affiliate firms.

McDonald’s notorious anti-worker and anti-union practices are widely imitated in the rapidly growing global fast food industry – this year’s sales alone are projected to reach $239.7 billion – especially by other fast food transnational corporations like Burger King, Pizza Hut, Wendy’s, KFC and many others, which all operate also in the Philippines.

The said practices are likewise followed by the local fast food firms, including the industry leader Jollibee, which is infamous too for its low pays and routine use of “endo” or “end-of-contract” workers with short-term and precarious work arrangements and also called “5-5-5” scheme where workers are endlessly hired and fired every five months to prevent them from becoming permanent or regular workers.

The fledgling local alliance of fast food workers is being assisted by the national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) and the global union IUF (International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations).

The IUF is also providing some help to the Fight for $15 movement – described as “an ever-expanding coalition of community, labor and faith-based groups” – that includes the ongoing campaign and solidarity tour of US-based McDonald’s workers in eight countries (including the Philippines) in three continents.