[WAC news alert] US companies alarmed over Bishop Ramento killing, union attacks

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Workers' Assistance Center

Nov 9, 2006, 9:19:07 PM11/9/06
to WAC news alert
A press release by the Workers' Assistance Center, Inc. (WAC)

10 November 2006

US companies alarmed over Bishop Ramento killing, union attacks

At least seven big foreign-owned companies, including Wal-Mart, have
express alarm over cases of killing, violence and attacks against
workers on strike in Cavite.

In their joint letter on November 7 to President Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo, the companies--American Eagle Outfitters, Gap Inc.,
Jones Apparel Group, Liz Claiborne Inc., PVH, Polo Ralph Lauren and Wal
Mart, express alarm on behalf of their company over the "violent
attacks on striking workers and the assaults and killings of labor
rights promoters".

"We urge your [government] to take proactive measures for ensuring
the physical safety and for protecting the rights of workers and labor
rights promoters", the group said. The signatories include the
company's top officials dealing their compliance to human rights,
corporate responsibility and business ethics.

Their letter to President Arroyo refers to the brutal killing of
prominent Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) Bishop Alberto Ramento
Jr. on October 3, attempt on the life of labor leader Gerardo Cristobal
on April 28 and the violent attacks against two workers unions on
strike inside the economic zone in Rosario, Cavite since September 25.

At the time of his death, Bishop Ramento was the chairman of the board
of the Workers' Assistance Center Inc. (WAC). On the other hand,
Cristobal was a former union president of a Japanese-owned EDS
Manufacturing inc. (EMI-YAZAKI) and member of the Solidarity of Cavite
Workers (SCW), an alliance of labor unions in Cavite. Cristobal survive
the ambush by gunmen later identified as policemen.

The group is also disturbed regarding the direct involvement by
elements of the Rosario Municipal Police, Philippine Economic Zone
Authority (PEZA) police and private security forces in perpetrating the
violent attacks against the workers' on strike. The workers on strike
are all members and union officers of the Nagkakaisang Manggagawa sa
Chong Won (NMCW) and Kaisahan ng mga Manggagawa sa Phils Jeon (KMPJ).

The joint letter also expresses concern of the PEZA's banning of
workers on strike from entering the Cavite Export Processing Zone
(CEPZ)." They also draw the government's attention to the reports
regarding the blacklisting of workers on strike. They are concern the
"[workers] employers might discriminate against them in the future
solely because they exercised their right to freedom of association".

"As companies that seek to source in countries and from suppliers
that share our commitment to ensuring the respect for workers'
rights, we believe that local human and labor rights Non-Governmental
Organisation (NGOs) can play an important role by partnering with
manufacturers and governmental entities as well as suppliers and
companies to help improve labor practices and working conditions,"
their letter to President Arroyo said.

Although Wal Mart's signature in the said joint letter is recognized,
still the workers on strike had reservations as to how it would honor
commitment. Wal Mart, the biggest retails store in the US, is one of
the buyers of Chong Won. Wal Mart's representatives in Philippines
had in the past displays indifference with the workers on strike.

"They [Wal-Mart] must prove it decisively. They must ensure those
workers who were summarily dismissed are reinstated in the ongoing
strike. That Chong Won should negotiate with the union for collective
Bargaining agreement (CBA). That it would refrain from violently
attacking workers on strike," said Marlene Gonzales, former employee
of Chong Won and now president of the SCW.

Unless Wal-Mart meet this objective, their effort of signing into the
joint letter are meaningless, rhetoric and attempts to cover up the
atrocities their suppliers are committing. It cannot exonerate them
from being responsible to killing the worker's livelihood and violent
attack inside CEPZ.

In closing, the signatories have urged the government to address the
violations, and to ensure the safety and rights of worker and labor
rights promoters.

"It is important that we and other companies doing business in the
Philippines remain confident in the government's commitment to
freedom of expression, freedom of association and the rule of law",
the joint letter further noted.

To read the full text of the letter please visit:


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