labor dispute

‘When we fight, we win’: Sofitel workers assured jobs if hotel reopens

Michelle Abad

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‘When we fight, we win’: Sofitel workers assured jobs if hotel reopens

SETTLED. Sofitel unions, management, and Philippine labor officials pose for a photo after arriving at an agreement in a conciliation meeting on July 2, 2024.


(1st UPDATE) Weeks of picketing and several conciliation meetings lead to Sofitel management heeding the demands of the workers, who will now be able to return to their jobs in the event the hotel reopens

MANILA, Philippines – After weeks of picketing outside the hotel over their imminent job losses and sitting through hours of conciliation meetings, workers of the now-closed Sofitel Philippine Plaza have gotten assurance from their employers that they may return to their jobs should the hotel reopen.

The two unions of Sofitel for rank-and-file workers and supervisors under the National Union of Workers in Hotel, Restaurant, and Allied Industries (NUWHRAIN), together with the management, arrived at a settlement on Tuesday evening, July 2. The hotel closed on July 1.

A copy of the settlement agreement obtained by Rappler provides that in the event the hotel reopens under the same company, within 15 days from the actual reopening, employees who did not accept the separation package may report to work.

“The hotel shall accept them back, under the same terms and conditions in the applicable CBA (collective bargaining agreement). Thereupon, the employment relationship shall resume,” the agreement states.

The agreement also provides that “the two unions shall continue to exist” for workers who chose not to avail the separation package. The employment relationship for these types of workers is suspended, and a “no work, no pay” policy applies for the time the hotel is closed.

This means that the hotel management heeded all the demands of the workers, which Nestor Cabada, longtime Sofitel worker and NUWHRAIN Philippine Plaza chapter president earlier said were retention of jobs, and respect for their unions and CBA.

Prior to the resolution, the workers cried alleged union busting from Sofitel over uncertainties in the closure’s circumstances. Philippine Plaza Holdings Incorporated (PPHI) president Esteban Peña Sy earlier said that the reason for the closure was for safety reasons linked to building integrity. However, he also said that management is “not certain about the future of the hotel.”

The workers questioned why their jobs needed to be terminated when the possibility of reopening was still up in the air.

Philippine labor officials mediated the conciliation meetings between the Sofitel management and workers. The parties arrived at a settlement on the fifth hearing on Tuesday.

“This is a momentous victory for our members and our union. Against tremendous odds, we have once again proven that united, the workers would ultimately win!” Cabada told Rappler on Wednesday, July 3.

Cabada also acknowledged the support the unions received from fellow trade unionists in the Philippines and abroad, including groups like Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro), NAGKAISA, and the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations.

Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma, who attended the last conciliation hearing, said the DOLE is “pleased” with the resolution, commending both Sofitel unions and management for their “patience, perseverance, and firm resolve to arrive at a mutually beneficial agreement.”

“The DOLE will continue to assist both parties to ensure faithful compliance with the terms of the settlement,” he said in a message to Rappler on Wednesday.

Sentro said the victory would not have been possible without the “strong unity” of Sofitel’s workers and the “invaluable solidarity that the supportive public provided.”

Deputy Minority Leader Senator Risa Hontiveros, in particular, issued a resolution seeking an inquiry into the legitimacy of the closure, the treatment of employees, and its potential impact on labor policies in the hospitality sector.

“Sofitel is the beloved hotel that it is because of the service that we workers provide. We are happy that the agreement between our parties reflects this fundamental fact,” Sentro said in a statement on Tuesday.

“When the working people fight, when we unite, and when we struggle together, victories are always possible,” Sentro said. “The Sofitel campaign’s victory is an important reminder: When workers organize, when we fight, we win!” –

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers the rights of women and children, migrant Filipinos, and labor.