วันเสาร์ที่ 28 พฤศจิกายน พ.ศ. 2552

For Triumph’s Workers, a Bleak Future Made Worse by DOLE’s Complicity

Published on July 4, 2009

The employees at Triumph International who are about to lose their jobs are wringing their hands over what awaits them in these difficult times. They are likewise upset that the labor department, instead of helping them, has been assisting the German company in its machinations to get rid of its workers.


MANILA — Jessica Cano is the sole breadwinner in her family. Her husband, a contractual worker in a shoe company, has been out of work for the past three years. Editha Tolosa, a co-worker, is on the same boat. Her husband used to work abroad but, for three years now, he has failed to get another job.

Jessica and Editha are both in their 30s, have a child each and have been with the multinational undergarments firm Triumph International Philippines Inc. for nearly four years.

They are among the 1,660 workers who will lose their jobs once Triumph closes its two factories in Taguig City and relocate, according to reports, to Laguna. Triumph’s move has been denounced by the workers’ union as plain union-busting to get rid of its regular workers, many of whom have worked for the company for decades. They have also decried the alleged complicity of the Department of Labor and Employment in Triumph’s efforts to keep its “super-profits” at the expense of the workers.

Triumph worker makes his sentiments known. (Photo by Marya Salamat /

The closure is certain to have a huge impact on the lives of the workers, most of them are women and many of them already in middle age who would be hard put to find new jobs at a time when unemployment is soaring. “What will happen to us now? We will go hungry,” Editha said.

Younger workers at Triumph, such as Malou Mayol, may be single, but she said she is supporting her ageing parents and sending younger siblings to school. The same is true with Rosemarie dela Torre, who is in her 20s.

The younger workers are just as worried about their future as the older ones, which is why they have joined the union to protest the labor secretary’s “connivance with the German capitalists of Triumph International” at the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) last June 30.

On June 28, Triumph announced that it would close down its known factories and offices in the Philippines by August 28 this year. It cited the global financial crisis as the main reason for the decision. To be shuttered are two production centers — the Triumph International Philippines and Star Performance Inc. — in Taguig City and Triumph’s main sales and marketing office in Makati.

Jessica Cano: Breadwinner, soon-to-be jobless. (Photo by Marya Salamat /

The management and workers of Triumph would be locked in a battle over separation pay and, if the unionists were right, over retention of their job when Triumph reopens in Laguna, a province south of Manila with numerous special economic zones.

Economic Zones

Jessica, Editha, Malou, Rosemarie and their fellow workers at Triumph are getting a taste of what their fellow workers in the garments sector have gone through. For years now, transnational companies, with the help of the Philippine government, have laid off workers, busted their unions and relocated to special economic zones in the provinces, said Anakpawis Rep. Joel Maglungsod.

These economic zones offer various tax and duty-free incentives as well as “rationalized” wages in the Philippines. At one point, because of these economic zones, there were 800 low minimum wage rates in the Philippines. At the same time, the number of laid-off workers and those hired on a contractual basis has consistently gone up. The number of unionized workers, meanwhile, has gone down and, along with it, the country’s wage rates, Maglungsod said.

Rosemarie dela Torre: Young and restless. (Photo by Marya Salamat /

The current daily wage rates in Metro Manila is pegged at P382. Jessica, Editha, Malou and Rosemarie’s P406 wage in Triumph was only slightly higher than the minimum. Even then, their daily earnings are actually less than half of the amount an average family needs to live decently.

Still, amid rising cases of hunger and joblessness, Triumph workers cherished their employed and unionized status. Unfortunately, Triumph cherished its super-profits more.

According to Roy Velez, chairman of the Kilusang Mayo Uno in the National Capital Region (KMU-NCR), many signs point to Triumph’s continuing production and sales in the Philippines despite its planned “closure” ostensibly due to the global financial crisis.

DOLE Blessing

Coming on the heels of an announcement that the Philippine unemployment rate has dropped to 7.5 percent in April from 8 percent a year earlier, a layoff of 1,660 workers in one fell swoop bodes ill for the labor sector.

What makes it even more infuriating, Velez said, is that the government seems to be in cahoots with the German owners of Triumph in getting rid of its regular, unionized workers.

After June 28, when Triumph International confirmed the workers’ suspicions and announced its intended shutdown, negotiations between Triumph unions and management shifted to separation packages and job retention or rehiring.

If indeed Triumph would shut down because of the financial crisis, why is it even talking about job retention or the rehiring of a few of the workers?

Previously, their negotiations revolved around Triumph’s efforts to move out of their FTI factory some container vans full of raw materials for re-exporting to the company’s factories in China or Vietnam. The Triumph union here has been picketing the gates of the factory’s warehouse since May 29 to guard against such moves and preserve their jobs. “No raw materials means no production, no production means no job,” said union president Isabelita dela Cruz.

Since they announced the shutdown, Triumph management has, as of this writing, twice revised its separation package to sweeten the layoff. But the workers are crying foul at Triumph’s apparent duplicity and DOLE’s complicity.

Labor secretary Marianito Roque told the Philippine Daily Inquirer this week that he was shocked at Triumph’s decision to close its factories. “I did not expect it to happen. I was really shocked because we are now at the tail-end of the effects of the global financial crisis on the garments industry,” he said.

“But there’s nothing much we can do. Company officials said they were losing badly as demand for underclothing and lingerie went down because people, especially Europeans, are cutting on their expenditures,” Roque told the paper.

Editha Tolosa (left) and Malou Mayol: “What will happen to us?” (Photo by Marya Salamat /

However, Velez said, Triumph has not filed a closure notice with the DOLE, which would be a requirement if indeed it is closing down.

Yet, the labor department, in the person of Roque himself, has sat with Triumph management to convince the workers to accept Triumph’s separation packages on account of its supposed closure.

This bolsters the suspicion among workers that the company is simply relocating to get rid of its present crop of workers.

To soften up the workers, Velez said, Roque even offered to help them put up small businesses, avail of livelihood trainings and start-up loans. Roque also assured the workers that they would be prioritized in government-sponsored job fairs.

“How sad that a labor secretary would do that,” Velez said. “How could the labor secretary urge the workers to pool their retirement pay and put up their own businesses when even a transnational giant like Triumph has supposedly folded up due to the global crisis?”

Velez added: “How can a labor secretary be blind to the trend that middle-aged women such as many among workers of Triumph today are usually passed over in job hiring?”

Relocating to Laguna

Worse, how could a labor secretary blithely ignore Triumph’s apparent motive to relocate to Laguna so it can lay off 1,660 of its employees? Velez asked.

It is clear, Velez said, that Triumph is setting up a runaway shop, which entails the closure of the company and its subsequent opening in another location. This is resorted to by companies that want to fire all of its workers and then hire contractuals or temporary employees, with the aim of bringing down labor costs.

Velez cited KMU’s investigations in Laguna where many locals are saying it is common knowledge there that Triumph has bought a shuttered garment factory in the province. The factory used to manufacture high-end undergarments, such as Victoria’s Secret. Now, according to Velez, preparations seem to be underway for its grand reopening, this time as a Triumph enterprise.

Bolstering the certainty of Triumph relocating in Laguna are reports, circulated among Triumph workers, that a few of their people in the engineering department would be rehired. There are reports, too, that Triumph is looking for 128 people for its new sales and marketing office. And there’s the news that an employment agency in Laguna has been hiring contractual production staff for Triumph.

“Instead of encouraging Triumph workers to give up their jobs and unions in exchange for a pittance, Secretary Roque should be interceding on their behalf for Triumph to bring the workers along when it relocates,” Velez said.

Jessica Cano admits that some Triumph workers are already “veterans” in age and on the job. If push comes to shove, some may be persuaded to bite the separation package and retire, she said.

But the majority of the workers, especially the younger workers in their 30s and early 40s, still would rather love to keep their regular job. “They are prepared to move to Laguna if necessary,” Cano said. (

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