By Chito Chavez
NutriAsia, whose striking workers figured in a violent dispersal weeks ago, maintained that its workers’ rights are well-protected in the midst of complaints of unfair labor practices and charges of violation of workers’ rights and the entry of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to investigate and uncover the root cause of the conflict.
Thelma Meneses, spokesperson of NutriAsia, stressed that the strikers were not employees of the company but were regular and permanent employees of its contractor-BMirk Group (BMirk).
In a statement, Meneses added BMirk has been certified and confirmed by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) as a legitimate toll packer/service provider with over 10,000 employees, counts several of the largest firms in the country as its clients.
Meneses clarified that DOLE has confirmed and declared that the strikers have a legitimate employer-employee relationship with BMirk, and not with NutriAsia.
NutriAsia maintained that the strikers’ repeated clamor for regularization is baseless, as they are already regular (not casual) and permanent (not endo) employees of BMirk.
“They receive full legally-mandated pay and benefits and enjoy security of tenure. Simply put, there is clearly no ‘endo’ being practiced, not by NutriAsia, nor by BMirk,” said NutriAsia.
Meneses noted the Philippine Labor Code does not prohibit legitimate contractualization as it recognizes that each organization has its own capabilities and limitations.
As a company, NutriAsia’s business involves formulation development, new product creation, and the manufacture of products in bulk form.
“We accept that there are better qualified companies, with the necessary expertise, when it comes to packaging and packing activities. This is the role of BMirk and its employees in our Marilao plant,” said NutriAsia.
In performing its role as a legitimate toll packer/provider, BMirk provides and owns the machines and equipment necessary to complete its engagement.
NutriAsia said the claim of the strikers that the P380 daily wage they receive is unjust is unfounded because BMirk complies with legally- mandated pay rules.
“The legal minimum wage during the relevant period and where the plant is located in Bulacan and the rest of Region 3 is in fact P380 a day,” the firm added.
Meneses claimed some of the protesters have been working for 10 years and they enjoy the benefits mandated under the law such as Social Security System (SSS), Philhealth, leaves and retirement pay.
NutriAsia also denied the claim that working conditions in the plant are poor saying that the plant has been visited regularly by Philippine and international inspectors and by DOLE representatives.
“They all consistently certified that our plant meets and exceeds the standards for workplace health and safety,” NutriAsia said.
NutriAsia claimed the strikers misrepresented themselves as its employees and illegally formed a union with “NutriAsia” in the fraudulent union’s name, which is an act of falsification.
On June 2, the strikers locked the gates of NutriAsia’s plant and barricading the road leading into and out of the plant, preventing more than a thousand non-striking people from gainful employment for nearly two months.
“While NutriAsia respects the rights of individuals to free speech, to organize, and to peaceful assembly, it is also of utmost importance to the company that such rights be exercised while maintaining peace and order, and protecting the livelihood and safety of its employees,’’ Meneses said.
NutriAsia said it has successfully secured court orders for the barricade and blockades to be removed so plant operations may continue and the non-striking workers may resume work, but this was ignored by the strikers.
The claim of around 200 strikers, that they were simply trying to look out for their own welfare, conflicts with the injury and losses that they have inflicted on thousands of other people employed by an entire web of industries that have been affected by their prohibited activities.
NutriAsia, in support to BMirk, had patiently and relentlessly tried to pursue a peaceful resolution to the dispute by attending more than a dozen mediation meetings organized by the DOLE at the regional level.
Both firms tried to pursue a peaceful resolution through a series of mediation meetings organized by the DOLE at the national level, and accepted the settlement proposal of the strikers, only for the latter to inexplicably reject their own proposal the following day.