Garment Workers of Triumph
On Friday I took a hour-and-a-half bus ride from Quezon City, Manila to FTI region in southern outskirts of the Metro-Manila area to visit the women (and some men) garment workers of Triumph International.
For those who don’t know Triumph is an international underwear manufacturing that sells (from what I’m told) high end women’s underwear. Triumph also has the distinction of being a ruthless multi-national corporation (owned by Germans and based in Switzerland), so much so that one of its factories (were women work on sewing machines) is in the middle of a military base in the state of Burma.
Triumph set up shop in the Philippines in 1975 during the height of Marcos dictatorship (and when martial law was in effect in the Philippines) in a small factory that had bamboo walls; in fact, some of the women I met today were actually part of that original workforce. Because of the hard work put in day in and day out Triumph was able to expand its modest factory into a huge complex with advanced machinery, it was also able to set up another factory in the Philippines around 19 years ago.
However, all through out this time the company has aggressively gone after the union, BPMTI (Bagong Pagkakaisa ng mga Manggagawa sa Triumph International, in English the Independent or New Unity of Workers in Triumph International) until it all came to a head in June when the workers went on strike and then the company, in late June, decided to shut down the factory and transfer its operations to parts of Thailand and Vietnam.
When I met the women they were stationed at picket lines (in makeshift shelters, which recently were raided and destroyed by the local police) at different strategic points in the factory to make sure that nothing got in and none of the high-end equipment and materials got out.
The company is claiming because of the global finnancial crisis it has to shut down its factories in the Philippines, however the workers at Triumph told me that was not the case and that they were seeking the unconditional restatement of their jobs (with back pay) because their claims were bogus. This is because the company has posted profits, despite the global downturn, and it has not actually (technically) shut down its factory, it has filed for retrenchment and has a marketing and management team of 142 people. What essentially is going on is that the company is union busting and wants to get rid of the union workers and then reopen with a larger workforce with contractal workers.
I’d blog more about my experience but I have to get going (very very busy), but I’ll have more blog posts on the workers from FTI.