"Union-busting by installment" case goes to Supreme Court: 6 years of illegally replacing union members with contract workers

In July 2001 Coca-Cola Philippines
management issued an internal memo to all HR managers to freeze all
hiring of regular workers. That freeze continues today as literally
thousands of 5-month contract workers are rotated through the bottling
plants. This practice is now the subject of a Supreme Court Case, with
many more cases in the pipeline.

On
25 September, the IUF-affiliated Alliance of Coca-Cola Unions
Philippines (ACCUP) passed a resolution giving full support to the
Supreme Court case filed by the General Santos Coca-Cola Plant Free
Workers Union against Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines Inc (CCBPI), a
wholly owned subsidiary of The Coca-Cola Company.

The petition calls for a review of the decision of the National
Labour Relations Commission (NLRC) to dismiss the union’s strike notice
filed back in January 2002 and the failure of the Court of Appeals to
recognize the unfair labour practices that have decimated union
membership over the past 5 years. The original strike notice was filed
in response to CCBPI’s contracting out of 41 essential positions
normally staffed by union members and which are explicitly included in
the collective bargaining unit represented by the union.

After declaring a freeze on hiring regular employees in July 2001,
CCBPI engaged the services of labour hire agencies to suppy contract
workers who would be exempt from union membership. This includes JLBP
Corporation Services which CCBPI engaged on 1 April 2002 under a
“temporary” arrangement for 6 months. But more than 5 years later JLBP
continues providing hundreds of workers on non-renewable 5 month
contracts to do essential tasks on the bottling lines. Despite claims
that JLBP is a specialized, independent contractor, the fact is it only
has paid-up capital of 100,000 Pesos (US$2,230 or 1,580 Euro at today’s
exchange rates) and has no tools, equipment or machinery of its own.
All of the tools, equipment and machinery used by JLBP contract workers
are owned by CCBPI.

CCBPI refuses to provide the union with copies of the contracts
signed by the workers hired through JLBP, and maintains its “freeze” on
any new hiring of regular workers. So while the hiring of regular
workers has been “frozen” for more than 5 years, hundreds of
contractual workers who are excluded from union membership have been
rotated through the company’s General Santos bottling plant. In effect
it means that since July 2001 no new union members could be recruited,
while retirement and redundancy over the years cut the existing number
of union members by more than 50%.

The union argues that the intention of CCBPI was not to cut costs or
reduce the overall workforce, but simply to cut the number of workers
represented by the union in collective bargaining. As union members
retired or became redundant, they were replaced with contract workers
who simply couldn’t join the union. In its petition to the Supreme
Court this process is described as “union-busting by installment”.

In the same resolution passed on 25 September, ACCUP declared its
support for the case filed in the Court of Appeals by another
affiliate, Samahang Manggawa ng Coca-Cola (SAMACOKE). This case also
concerns CCBPI’s use of short-term contracts and casualization as a
means of union-busting.

For backround please read: Workers hired on 5 month contracts, assigned to positions formerly held by "redundant" regular workers [February 23, 2007]