Photos by Jane Bautista/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines– Eighteen of the 23 people arrested after the violent protest dispersal in Marilao, Bulacan were members of militant group Kadamay, NutriAsia spokesperson Thelma Meneses* told Rappler on Tuesday, June 19.
Meneses said picketers and authorities were peacefully discussing when the militant group allegedly sparked the violence.
“There was a peaceful agreement with the [union] president that they will move and allow the gates to be opened. On the other side of the road, there’s a group of Kadamay [members]… they started pushing people and throwing rocks at the police,” Meneses said.
The statement runs contrary to the claims of Jessie Gerola, president of Nagkakaisang Manggagawa ng NutriAsia. (LOOK: Why NutriAsia workers are on strike)
"Gusto kong tumakas, gusto kong umalis para hindi ako mapalo sana. Lumusob [sila] tapos pinaghahampas ako nang pinaghahampas," Gerola said. (I wanted to escape, I wanted to leave so I won't be hit. But they came over me and continuously hit me.)
The violent dispersal occurred last Thursday, June 14.
Despite the “millions worth of losses” due to the incident, Meneses said the company did not file charges against the protesters.
“Our hands are tied. It’s you, not us, who hurt the police,” Meneses said.
Meneses said the condiments company does not recognize the new union, as its members are not employees of NutriAsia.
She explained that the group is composed entirely of workers of B-mirk, a toll packing company responsible for the packaging and labelling of NutriAsia’s products.
NutriAsia cooks and produces condiments like vinegar and soy sauce. The company said that packaging was no longer within their domain or expertise.
Both types of employees operate under one compound.
Meneses went on to explain the distinction between contractors and toll packers. She said that contracting firms involve only manpower, while toll packers comprise of equipment and skilled workers that can operate them.
Since the two companies are separate entities, NutriAsia has no control over the actions and issues of B-mirk.
Despite the distinction, she insisted there are no contractual employees in both companies. She went on to claim that the protesters were regular employees. (READ: DOLE condemns violent dispersal of NutriAsia workers)
This assertion contradicts the statement of Jornell Quiza, who said he was a contractual employee.
Meneses said the conflict started when the union of B-mirk employees wrote to them insisting that they be recognized as NutriAsia workers.
“We were taken aback. Who are they? They are not our employees. So what we did is we asked, reported to B-mirk… your people are misrepresenting themselves as employees of NutriAsia,” Meneses said.
When B-mirk employees started a noise barrage every 10 am and 10 pm, Meneses said they could not reprimand them since they were not NutriAsia employees.
Protesting workers were invited for a discussion, but allegedly never came back to report for work and accused the companies they were laid off.
Meneses admitted that NutriAsia employees enjoyed better compensation and benefits. She assumed this was the reason why B-mirk employees wanted to be part of NutriAsia.
She said B-mirk employees are welcome to apply, but subject to a screening process and availability of slots.
“We have higher wages. We are not the bad guys, we provide good pay,” Meneses said.
Both companies are also still open for dialogues on how to improve working conditions. –Rappler.com
*Editor's Note: In an earlier version of this story, NutriAsia president Angie Flaminiano was quoted in the story when it should have been spokesperson Thelma Meneses. The correction has been made. We apologize for this error.