Senator Joel Villanueva has filed a Senate resolution to look into labor issues of striking workers of NutriAsia.
Villanueva, who chairs the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources development, filed the resolution following Monday's violent dispersal of the workers who held a strike against NutriAsia on Monday.
"It is regrettable that the NutriAsia case rooted in contractualization and its abuses has to drag and result in termination of workers, violent dispersals of picket lines, injuries and arrests of workers," Villanueva said.
The strike at the NutriAsia factory had been going on for weeks, as they protested the firm's alleged engagement in labor-only contracting, low wages, and poor working conditions.
The dispersal left some workers injured after the dispersal at the NutriAsia picket line in Bulacan, where the protesters gathered in a Mass. The police also arrested some workers and supporters of their cause.
In a statement, NutriAsia claimed that the strikers threw rocks and even fired a gun in the air prompting security forces to disperse them.
“Around 200 striking workers of Toll Packer BMirk and their supporters, fired a shot in the air and started to hurl rocks at police and guards,” the firm said.
It added that the striking workers and their sympathizers violated the writ of preliminary injunction issued by the Malolos Regional Trial Court, which ordered the independent workers’ union “and all the other persons acting under its authority, direction or control, during the pendency of this case, to desist and restrain from obstructing the ingress to and egress from the company plant located at 904 Angeles Road MIS 3 Lambakin, Marilao, Bulacan of NutriAsia, Inc. Marilao or obstruct thoroughfares leading thereto, including but limited to Dayap Road."
A video captured by the League of Filipino Students, however, showed that the rocks were thrown at the direction of the protesters who were running away.
As this developed, labor group Partido Manggagawa has urged the consuming public not to patronize NutriAsia products.
“The boycott will not only support the legitimate struggle of workers, but more importantly, send a strong message by the consuming public to NutriAsia, that we the public will not consume products sold and profited [from] by a company that is violating workers’ rights,” PM chairman Renato Magtubo said in a statement issued on Tuesday.
The company’s products include Mang Tomas, Datu Puti, and UFC ketchup.
Magtubo also slammed the violent dispersal of the protesting workers and their supporters.
“Partido Manggagawa condemns in the strongest terms the violent dispersal of PNP [Philippine National Police] forces on the peaceful protest action of workers and their supporters, which has resulted into scores of injuries and arrests,” he added.
The PM official noted that the workers were only claiming their rights based on the orders of the Department of Labor and Employment.
“The issue of the protest action is a legitimate one—the demand for regularization of hundreds of workers employed by manpower agencies for many years to the principal employer, the NutriAsia,” he explained.
At the same time, the labor group urged the Commission on Human Rights to investigate the incident.
They likewise called on senators to prioritize the deliberation of Senate Bill No. 1826 for Congress to finally legislate a new law governing labor contracting in the country.
NutriAsia, however, claimed that the strike happened three days after the DOLE instructed the non-striking majority of Toll Packers’ employees to return to work.
It also called out the strikers for allegedly using children and the elderly "as front-liners and human shields" in barricading the plant's entry points.
"These children and elderlies clearly have nothing to do with the labor issue at hand. We appeal for calm among the strikers and their supporters and would like to let the public know that the situation is currently in the hands and under control by the Philippine National Police. We appeal to everyone to comply with the rule of law as we all seek a peaceful resolution," it added.