By Kilusang Mayo Uno
On May 10, a mere ten days after President Rodrigo Duterte signed the anti-worker Executive Order (EO) 51 — which he claimed was his fulfillment of his promise to end contractualization — workers of Middleby Philippines in Binan, Laguna launched a sit-down strike, to protest their impending termination as contractuals.
The strike is now on its ninth day, and 131 Middleby workers are set to be fired this month. Many of them are long-time employees of Middleby Philippines, under the international, US-based Middleby Corporation which supplies commercial cooking equipment for fast-food chains and other restaurants. Their baseless termination, made possible by their unfair status as contractuals, is in line with the exploitative nature of contractualization schemes.
Locals report that firemen and policemen have threatened to use tear-gas to disperse the strike. The strikers are also being denied access to food and water brought to them by supporters outside the Special Economic Zone where the Middleby plant is located. Family members of workers on strike have been summoned by the corporation, and used to convince the workers to leave the sit-down strike.
The Middleby workers, under the KMU-affiliated Samahan ng mga Manggagawang Kontraktwal sa Middleby, slammed both the corporation and the government for their failure to implement an April 24 ruling by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) which ordered the regularization of all 131 workers.
The plight of the Middleby workers proves that Duterte has once again failed in his promise to end contractualization. The united labor sector asked the President to sign an EO that would set regular hiring as the norm, and ensure concrete mechanisms for punishing companies such as Middleby for non-compliance with DOLE regularization orders. Instead, Duterte gave us EO 51, which is completely useless in protecting the labor rights of Middleby workers and all other contractual workers in the country.
If Duterte were sincere in wanting to end contractualization, he would side with the workers of Middleby instead of corporations who are flouting the DOLE’s orders for regularization. His deceptive EO 51 is doing more harm than good, as Middleby workers have remained contractual and are set to be terminated without just cause.
KMU calls on all workers and members of other sectors to lend their support to the strikers of Middleby. The ongoing, massive retrenchments of contractual workers show that EO 51 is fake and deceptive, and that Duterte himself has no real plan or commitment to junk contractualization. We stand in solidarity with all workers and other labor organizations as we resist and oppose the anti-worker policies of the Duterte regime, and continue the nationwide struggle to end all forms of contractualization for good.