DOLE ready to assist Honda workers

MANILA – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Monday said it is ready to provide assistance to some 400 workers to be affected by the impending closure of Honda Cars Philippines Inc. (HCPI) plant in Laguna.

DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the government will help the affected workers through the Tulong Pangkabuhayan sa Ating Displaced/Disadvantaged Workers (TUPAD).

“We could consider extending to them our usual TUPAD which is the emergency employment program. That’s the livelihood program that we could extend to them,” Bello told the media after meeting with the Honda officials.

Bello said the government could also provide them with financial assistance to start a business.

“Then they go to coffee or bamboo. Maganda yung prospect sa bamboo agricultural business is very bright. Pero siyempre nakafocus sila sa kanilang trabaho (Bamboo agricultural business is very bright. But of course, they are focused on their job,” he said.

The HCPI management, Bello said, has offered the workers good benefits, but failed to divulge further details.

“May mga benefits sila (They have benefits) but I am not at liberty to mention the benefits offered. May maganda naman silang offer (They have good offer). I don’t know if this will…the workers to accept,” he said.

Bello said he asked Honda to give the workers with additional benefits.

“I do not know if they will accept or allow the benefits na hinihingi ko (that I requested). Let us wait,” Bello said.

He said the HCPI officials confirmed to him that ‘tight global competition” prompted Honda to close its manufacturing plant in the Philippines.

“That was the statement of their sales manager who happens to be a lawyer and he said the issue of the closure is non-negotiable dahil hindi ‘yung Honda Philippines ang nag-decide (because it’s not the HCPI that made the decision), it was Honda Japan,” Bello told reporters.

“You cannot stop them from making the decision. We don’t know the reason for the haste of the notice of closure. meron silang strategy siguro…we don’t know yung purpose (perhaps that’s their strategy. we don’t know the purpose),” he added.

Bello said both the DOLE and the employees have not received the notice of closure.

“Ganoon din sabi nila pinadala na sa amin yung notice of closure pero wala pa naman kaming natatanggap (That’s what they told us also that they sent the notice of closure but we have not received it yet). So the one month period will start from the time that we receive the notice,” he said.

Unjust and illegal

Meanwhile, the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), said the sudden HCPI closure without allegedly informing its workers is irresponsible, unjust and illegal.

“The management and the workers thru their union are bound by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA), and yet everyone was caught by surprise. It is the workers’ right to be informed of such drastic actions, especially as it costs them their jobs which their families have been depending on for years,” said CTUHR executive director Daisy Arago in a statement.

Arago said HCPI’s President and General Manager Noriyuki Takakura appeared on a video message to announce that Honda will cease operations in the Philippines.

“Before the workers could absorb the devastating news, HCPI immediately stopped its operations and other workers were refused entry to the plant’s premises,” she said.

The group said Honda’s closure will greatly affect its 387 workers, most of them have been serving the company for 15-20 years. Some even served for 28 years.

The CTUHR called on HCPI management to respect their workers’ rights and conduct a dialogue immediately.

It also urged the DOLE to intervene and take appropriate measures to ensure that foreign investors respect the rights of Filipino workers.  Ferdinand Patinio /PNA –