Japanese firm sacks 157 workers for refusing to be called ‘agency hires’
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) in Southern Mindanao condemned on Wednesday the Japanese company Nakayama Technology Corporation in Digos City for sacking 157 workers for reportedly not signing job contracts that would make them agency-hired.
On Tuesday, the dismissed workers held a picket outside Nakayama’s factory and office in Barangay Cogon in Digos City.
Carlo Olalo, KMU-Southern Mindanao spokesperson, said Wednesday that Nakayama, which has been employing about 2,000 workers to manufacture brick and granite wall panels and roofing systems in its Digos factory for export to Japan and other countries, dismissed the 157 workers on the same day.
He said they were issued their walking papers after they declined to sign a document that would strip them of their right to regular employment.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer repeatedly tried to seek the company’s side but text messages and calls to its human resource official went unanswered.
Lawyer Robert de Leon, Nakayama legal counsel, later responded to the Inquirer’s questions and denied the workers’ claim.
He said the picketing workers were not directly employed by Nakayama but were employees of two agencies supplying workers to Nakayama.
De Leon also said only 30, not 157, have not reported for work and have refused to renew their contracts with the agencies they worked for.
“We don’t know them because they are not our workers,” De Leon told the Inquirer by phone interview, “They were not employed by the company,” he said.
De Leon said Nakayama wanted to talk with the protesters but “they did not have authorized representatives whom we can talk to.”
“It’s difficult to talk to so many people,” he added.
But according to Olalo, the workers have gained rights to be declared regular workers due to the duration of their employment. “By operation of law, these 157 workers should have already been considered regular workers since they have been working with the company for one to 6 years,” Olalo said, citing the Labor Code provision, which has ensured the regular employment of workers who have been working with any company for six months and a day.
Olalo said it appeared that Nakayama has been using the Department of Labor and Employment’s Department Order No. 18-A (DOLE DO 18-A), signed under President Aquino’s term, which allowed companies to convert “overstaying” workers into agency hires.
He said “overstaying workers” has become a shop-floor term for workers who by law, should have been declared regulars but have remained contractual workers.
“The department order has made contractualization even more widespread through the creation of labor agencies,” he said.
“Under DO 18-A, it has now become legal for companies to evade responsibility in giving workers their right to regular employment,” Olalo added.
Under the scheme, workers were hired for five months through an agency accredited by a company. Such scheme, according to Olalo, instantly cut off the workers’ chances at becoming regular employees “with rights and benefits under the law.”
He said KMU has been condemning the Aquino government for espousing and passing labor laws and policies that have “normalized the sustained attack on workers’ right to life, human rights, and freedom of association.”
Olalo said workers, such as those hired by Nakayama, should assert their right to security of tenure by uniting and launching protest actions against companies implementing the agency-hire scheme.
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