Dear friends

We believe you know much about the dismissal of four TMPCWA members on August 2, 2010. This edition intends to provide you with a detailed explanation of what actually happened on June 5, for which they were dismissed, and what made them sack the members without any hesitation who tried to defend the worker’s rights, including Vice-president Wenecito (Wenny), a top leader of the members in the plant. TMPCWA is sure to survive such an attack made by the company. We do hope you will join us as ever in protecting the human rights of workers and international labor standards which have been infringed by Toyota Corporation, a transnational company.

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Protest Toyota Campaign

Newsletter 12

March 2011

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The truths regarding June 5, 2010

At 8:45 PM on June 5, at the beginning of the fifteen minute break, three members of the TMPCWA Grievance Committee made their way with a tense look towards the Final Assembly Line. The three were Vice-president Wenecito (Wenny) , Board member Ariel and Ricky.

On May 22 and May 27, Pablo, a TMPCWA member refused to work overtime, for which he was expelled from his workplace by his direct supervisor, Santilles, Junior group supervisor. While forcing him to remain in the Kaizen room near the Final Assembly Line, work was being withheld from Pablo. Since the transfer order came without notice, Pablo appealed to Javier who was the foreman, and made various other efforts to return to his position on the assembly line, which was ignored. Finally he got in touch with the Grievance Committee for support. The fact that Pablo’s bosses, counterparts, were loyal to the company put them in a tenser atmosphere.  

The Grievance Committee was organized to solve union members’ problems at the workplace and has been active since the founding of TMPCWA. The company still refuses to recognize TMPCWA as a union and does not answer letters from the Grievance Committee, as part of its strategy to ignore the presence of the TMPCWA altogether. In spite of this, the Grievance Committee has persisted in its efforts, acting out of concern for the human rights of its members. For example, the Grievance committee speaks with supervisors during fifteen minute breaks and meal breaks, and by now this has become a familiar sight for the workers at Toyota Motors Philippines.

On this day the Grievance Committee was determined to locate and confront Pablo's supervisors, outside of break time if necessary. Although the Grievance Committee tried to seek out Pablo’s supervisors on three previous occasions, during each of the fifteen minute breaks and meal times on May 31, June 2 and 3, they could not be found anywhere on the site, as if they had gone into hiding. The three members of the Grievance Committee each shared a concern for Pablo, who had been left in the Kaizen Room since May 28, possibly to be transferred to work offline such as cleaning. For this day each sought permission from their respective supervisors on June 4, explaining that they might report to work later than usual because of their duties towards the Grievance Committee. Ricky’s supervisor gave permission, while Vice-President Wenny and Ariel did not receive permission.  They decided to go ahead as part of their legal rights as a Grievance Committee, out of concern for their fellow union member Pablo.

It was at 8:55 PM that the three members of the Grievance Committee found junior group supervisor Carpio, and Senior group supervisor Echano at the final assembly line. Vice-president Wenny became immediately suspicious of the fact that supervisors were present that day, but went on to speak of Pablo's case and demanded that he be allowed to return to his workplace. When break ended at 9:00PM the assembly line went into motion. At 9:10 PM supervisor Santilles showed up and suddenly, began taking pictures of the area where the talks were being held. The members of the Grievance Committee were completely caught by surprise. During three days of searching the supervisor had not appeared before them, but as soon as talks began he began to photograph the Grievance Committee members. The maliciousness of their intentions angered Vice-president Wenny. He raised his voice in protest: “ This is illegal, you can not photograph us this way”

Belen, whose task was to bring parts to the assembly lines, saw that the Grievance Committee was speaking very loudly with the supervisors, and out of concern for what was happening walked towards the site. Belen then noticed Santilles taking pictures and moved to stop him from taking further pictures. Santilles responded by viciously pointing his finger at Belen saying that “you are like a hungry dead man.” Belen’s anger was aggravated by this remark.

It was then that Echano told Carpio to go and press the emergency stop button to stop the line. “I am the senior group supervisor and I will put a stop to the production line whenever I want to”. His words that followed resonated loudly throughout. At 9:16 PM the final assembly line came to a halt.

What was happening? All of the workers present directed their attention towards the final assembly line. TMPCWA member Pantino was passing the area by chance and seeing that the Grievance Committee was holding talks approached the site. Pantino, who had previously lost a part of his third finger in a workplace accident, was not attached to a particular assembly line, but was roaming around as floating team-member. It was also a part of his duties to carry a camera with him and report workplace accidents should they occur. Union member Cruzado, who was attached to the welding section reported to his supervisor to leave his position temporarily. As he followed the situation from a distance, he suddenly found Carpio photograph him. Magdaong, who was a substitute person on the final assembly line of INNOVA also approached the scene after the line came to a stop to be photographed by Carpio.

Since the location of this incident was close to the passage leading to the canteen and the clinic, two other TMPCWA members passing by also were present and became involved. Roderick Vidal who worked fixed shifts at the chassy line of welding section was doing overtime and about to stop by the canteen for a meal. Upon passing by the site he noticed that the line had been stopped and approached the site to find out what was happening. Tanael had filed for sick leave at the clinic and on his way back to the workplace noticed the assembly line. As he stood for a moment and looked towards the assembly line, he saw Carpio taking pictures of himself and questioned Carpio as to why he was taking pictures.

Two supervisors were taking pictures and they stopped the line in spite of the fact that the production facilities were running without problems. Workers who did not understand the situation were quickly gathering on the spot. The Grievance Committee members began to realize that they may have fallen into a trap, and decided to abort the talks. At 9:34, eighteen minutes after the stoppage, the assembly line resumed activities.

From June 5, the company outwardly maintained silence. On June 7, TMPCWA demanded negotiations with President Sugata and Vice president for industrial relations Joseph Sobrevega but did not receive a reply. All during this time, the company was secretly collecting information and consulting lawyers. For the company this was a perfect opportunity to fire Vice President Wenny who was a leading organizer and chiefly responsible for the activities of TMPCWA within the Toyota plant.

The company fabricated the story

Their attack was sudden. A show-Cause Notice with notice of preventive suspension was issued to the nine TMPCWA members 20 minutes before work was over on Friday, June 25. The company depicted the incident in the notice as follows:

With the other 8 members, Wenny was involve in an incident at the Final Assembly Line which disrupted the production operations. Wenny allegedly incited Team Member Pablo  to abandon his work station at Kaizen Office and to work in the line instead. As a result, the line stopped for 18 minutes from 21:16 to 21:34, forcing other lines to stop successively. This made it impossible for the shift to line out 2 vehicles. In addition, the notice said that the nine members had infringed upon Article 282 of the Labor Code and Company’s Code of Conduct, suggesting the company might take disciplinary action against them, including dismissal. If the members have any objection, submit an explanation of the incident according to Due Process Form within 5 days. It also stated that the nine members be reported for hearing on July 6, and ordered them not to come to work (preventive suspension) till the matter came to the conclusion.

We are left speechless by the company's description of the incident. We can indicate that there are numerous inconsistencies to be pointed out. For instance, a preventive suspension is issued in order to prevent what would otherwise pose a serious threat to life or property. For this reason a suspension order is normally issued directly after a given incident. The notice was issued, however, 20 days after the incident, and these nine TMPCWA members could not have possibly posed a threat to other workers present nor were in a position to cause damage to the production line. It is obvious that the notice is against reason. In addition, the action of Grievance Committee is sanctioned under Article 255 of the Labor Code which emphasizes the participation of the workers or their union to policy and decision making processes. Therefore, the four members of TMPCWA act of seeking audience for grievance cannot by any stretch of imagination,  be equated to serious offense because the intent was lawful, especially where the occurrence took place before the start of the production.

The hearings before the Investigation Committee were scheduled for July 6. Meanwhile the nine suspended workers had no choice but to submit due process forms. The members of the Investigation Committee consisting of Vice president for Manufacturing Alden Sapit, Manager of Human Resources Sobrevega, the Chair of the Labor Management Council Erwin Viduya and a secretarial worker Raquel Lopez. All four members of the Investigation Committee represented the company. TMPCWA protested that the workers were not being fairly represented, and demanded to be present at the hearings but their request was denied. The hearings were conducted from 8:00 AM till 6:00 PM. Vice-president Wenny was questioned for one hour and fifteen minutes while the eight others were each questioned for one hour.

The photographs were brought out before each worker and the Investigation Committee repeatedly posed questions which were framed to make workers admit that the incident was a planned effort by the TMPCWA, and that union members had acted collectively to cause disruption. When Vice-president Wenny demanded to know who had brought these claims before the committee, the committee would not give the specific nature of the claims being brought against them, answering only that numerous supervisors have filed the case and that one supervisor pressed the emergency button due to activities which disrupted production. No information was given to the nine members, and these were the first and last hearings which were just for and by the company.

According to the companys' rules and regulations suspension may be imposed for a maximum period of 30 days. The company however, claimed the process was not completed until additional witnesses were heard from. The suspension period was extended for another week, lasting until August 1.Throughout the period during which the nine workers were on suspension, numerous rumors spread throughout the company. For the most part, the rumors held the view that the committee would not go so far as to dismiss the workers. This was partly due to the fact that DOLE had contacted Toyota Motors Philippines on this issue and had made a request not to dismiss the workers. Under these conditions, TMPCWA decided to remain calm and await the outcome of the proceedings until August 2.

Four members were unjustly dismissed

Vidal, the fixed worker, was given a written warnings on the morning of August 2, before he returned to work. The news made the other 8 workers who will work the night shift have a slight hope. But the company took so strict a disciplinary action against them that four were dismissed and two were suspended from work for 30 days.

Vice-president Wenny, who was one of the four members dismissed, was allegedly told in the notification that he joined in the direct participation and caused trouble, brought about an 18-minute line stop for a 2 units of vehicle at the final assembly line, made a false remark at the Investigation Committee, talked dirty to Echano, and left the worksite without permission from the supervisor in charge. Ariel belonging to the Grievance Committee was also dismissed for similar reasons while Ricky, the other Grievance Committee member, was stopped coming to work for 30 days because his supervisor testified that Ricky had left the worksite with his permission. The other workers who were dismissed were Belen and Pantino. They joined direct participation, and Belen exercised violence against Santilles while Pantino made a false testimony saying the he had not taken pictures. Cruzado was suspended from work for 30 days because he joined direct participation. Tanael was given a written warning while Magdaong returned to work without blame.

What Toyoda asserted about direct participation and threat seems strange to everyone. Suppose that TMPCWA had planned such direct participation, and what made the Grievance Committee members in question ask in advance the supervisor in charge for permission to leave the worksite? What made the supervisors take pictures which invited the TMPCWA members’ anger and press the emergency stop button. The key players on the company’s side were two notorious supervisors, Echano and Santilles who violate the human rights of workers and conduct power harassment against workers.

Four workers who were unjustly fired were all in their thirties, working for Philippine Toyota for 16 to 20 years. Of course, they each have a family to support. Vice-president Wenny told. “The company’s decision is so stern, and the company did not listen to our testimony at all. The company wanted to dismiss me, Vice-president, so that I was prepared for that. But the dismissal of the other tree members was a great surprise and sad news to me.” He has been brave enough to confront the company to protect the rights of workers in the plant since 233 members including President Ed , were dismissed in March 2001. The company harassed him in many ways, and finally they dismissed the top leader in the plant together with three TMPCWA activists. The four dismissed members brought the case to National Conciliation & Mediation Board (NCMB) immediately after dismissal, discussed the matter with them 5 times to come to question the validity of the dismissal and a reconciliation. Toyota never said yes to withdraw the dismissal, and the matter is now handled at National Labor Relation Commission (NLRC).

It can be said that this fabricated dismissal by Toyota is a kind of their rally in the face of international condemnation against the company. As clearly shown in the ILO recommendation, Toyota has been internationally condemned for the past 10 years because they fired 233 TMPCWA workers. In 2008, international condemnation came to the peak when an army was stationed within the Philippine Toyota premise as well as close the TMPCWA’s office, and an attack was attempted to President Ed, which seemed to be an extrajudicial killings against him. ILO dispatched High Level Mission in September 2009 to the Philippines. One of their important missions was to bring to a prompt resolution the Philippine Toyota’s labor dispute. ILO suggested to the Philippine government that she would bring the matter to an out of the box solution while Ms. Rosalinda Baldoz , Secretary to DOLE took the initiatives herself to mediate between Philippine Toyota and TMPCWA. While ILO, IMF and other international labor organizations, including the Philippine government, took action for resolution, Toyota, a multi-national enterprise, did not change their stubborn attitude.  

TMPCWA extended protest campaigns inside and outside the plant for the company to withdraw the unfair dismissal of four (4) workers. At the same time, TMPCWA started at the end of August an international campaign to demand the company to withdraw the dismissal of and allow 237 workers including newly dismissed 4 members to return to work.

IMF quickly responded to the dismissal. and General Secretary Jyrki Raina himself got in touch with the concerned Philippine labor organizations asking them to make efforts for early resolution. In Japan, Support Group for TMPCWA invited President Ed and Vice-president Wenny, and conducted a protest campaign against Toyota Motor Corporation in Toyota City on September 20, and against Toyota Tokyo Head Office in Tokyo on September 22. Each campaign had 100 citizen and worker participants.In the Philippines, TMPCWA conducted a series of protest campaign from September 27 to October 1. They conducted a campaign on September 27 in front of Japanese Embassy Manila to ask them to give a hand to solve the dispute. TMPCWA uttered a protest against Philippine Toyota in front of the company on September 29, together with 50 members from 12 countries of ATNC - Asian Transnational Corporation Monitoring Network.

The Philippine Toyota labor dispute represents countless labor disputes where multi national companies do not observe the international labor standards and violate the human rights of workers. That is why we never give up and continue to fight in the cause of justice.

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Support Group for TMPCWA (Protest Toyota Campaign )

E-mail: Protest-Toyota@list.jca.apc.org : http://www.green.dti.ne.jp/protest_toyota/

Toyota Motor Philippines Corporation Workers Association (TMPCWA )

E-mail: tmpcwa1998@yahoo.com: http://www.tmpcwa.org

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