On the Picket Line

Philippine beverage workers strike backs contract workers

By Genoveva Valdez
September 2, 2019
Rappler/Enrico BerdosBeverage workers on strike in Philippines read government notice to move their picket line June 27. Unionists are demanding company directly hire contract workers with full benefits.

PASIG CITY, Philippines — About 100 workers, mainly contract employees, have been on strike at ZAGU, a major Filipino beverage company here, since June 6. Through their union, the Organization of ZAGU Workers, they are fighting to be hired as permanent workers with full benefits.

The company, known for making pearl shakes, employs about 600 people nationwide. Most have worked for years as outside contractors.

Cristina Aurestila, a 17-year company-hired field worker, told the Militant that an attempt to organize a union in 2007 was foiled by management. In 2018, a second unionization drive by ZAGU workers succeeded.

“They are taking a hard line but we will continue to demand for our co-workers to be regularized,” Jenelyn Machica, a permanent worker there for 15 years, told the Militant.

The strike gained wider publicity July 8 when about 50 security personnel and pro-company workers tried to push the picketers out of the driveway. A video of the violent confrontations went viral.

Vico Sotto, the mayor of Pasig City, in eastern Manila, visited the picket soon after the clashes. Posing as a friend of the workers, he chided the bosses for not directly hiring workers, many of whom “have been with you more than 10 years yet remain contractuals.”

“We’re not just fighting for ourselves, we’re fighting for all the others too,” Aurestila said, referring to the masses of contract workers in the country.