Who’s behind PMFTC mass layoff?
What’s behind the mass layoff of some 640 workers at Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corp. Inc. (PMFTC)?
According to an Inquirer report, PMFTC is resorting to mass layoff because its market share slid to 70.9 percent in June 2014 from 76.7 percent in June 2013. PMFTC blames this declining market share to stiffer competition with Mighty Corp., whose share jumped from 17.9 percent to 23.9 percent over the same period (“Philip Morris cuts 640 jobs, blames sales slowdown,” News, 1/14/15).
The numbers speak for themselves. In one year’s time, Mighty cut PMFTC’s dominant market share by only about 6 percent. PMFTC, therefore, is definitely not yet in the red. The fact is, it continues to enjoy monopoly advantage in the industry, with 70 percent control over the cigarette market.
I strongly believe the redundancy program is objectionable based on the following grounds:
First, it is not done in good faith. The management could have discussed the problem of redundancy during the negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the union. But it chose not to until the CBA was signed in December 2014. Hence, the announcement of the redundancy plan in the middle of January 2015 came as a complete surprise to the obviously clueless workers.
Second, the number and manner of implementing the mass layoff is arbitrary, selective and ruthless. Termination is obviously concentrated in the unionized factory (Marikina), sparing the one that is not (Batangas). The redundancy plan is therefore not only one-sided; its hidden agenda is anti-union.
Third, PMFTC’s determination of employees to be terminated and positions abolished did not follow a fair and reasonable criterion. Aside from the policy to concentrate the mass layoff in one of its two plants, the selection of employees to be terminated was discriminate and harsh. No consultation was ever made and no fair mechanism was created to determine who and what positions will be abolished.
Fourth, the redundancy program is being implemented with blackmail. PMFTC announced that it is offering a separation package that is above that mandated by law but did not reveal that this will be denied to those who will contest the legality of the mass layoff. Also that this “generous offer”is conditional on the union not helping its own members who will file complaints. This “carrot and stick” policy undermines the right of workers to seek available remedies to save their jobs and to defend their lives.
Fifth, the stated basis of redundancy indicates a continuing policy of retrenchment. Will a drop of another 5 percent or 10 percent market share next year result to the mass layoff of another 600 workers?
Surprisingly the union completely surrendered to this corporate agenda facilitated by no less than its leaders and the federation where it is affiliated, the National Federation of labor Unions. The union is also affiliated with the militant Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino.
So why did the union leadership swallow the redundancy program of PMFTC hook, line and sinker? Further why did the union handcuff itself by an agreement that it will deny assistance to its own members who are aggrieved by the mass layoff? I can only demand forthright explanation from my former colleagues.
My heart really bleeds seeing the union that I led for two decades suffer a humiliating setback like this. But I can feel the union blood still flowing from among the members who expressed readiness to fight back, on their own yet collective way of saving their jobs, and ultimately, in redeeming the union flag.
—RENATO B. MAGTUBO,
chair, Partido ng Manggagawa,
and former president,
Fortune Tobacco Labor Union,
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