Some of the NutriAsia 19 before their release. Photo: Bayan.

Some of the NutriAsia 19 before their release. Photo: Bayan.

Greed and violence are common to capitalism. They were both seen in action on July 30, when the Philippine National Police attacked and dispersed  striking NutriAsia workers on a  picket line in Marilao, Bulacan, Philippines.

The police assault resulted in the injury and arrest of at least 19 workers, youth leaders, journalists, and supporters, and denied them access to legal counsel. Those arrested quickly became known as “The NutriAsia 19,” as activists called for their release from jail.

The workers at NutriAsia have been on strike since June 2. They are fighting for union recognition, just wages, job security and the right to a safe workplace. They are asking for solidarity from workers around the world, and for all who support them to boycott NutriAsia products, which are distributed and sold in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, the Pacific, and North America.

NutriAsia is a multi-million dollar company based in Bulacan, Philippines. They produce popular condiments such as Datu Puti, Mang Tomas, Jufran, Silver Swan, Golden Fiesta, Locally and Papa. The company makes the equivalent of over $500,000 U.S. dollars per day.

The company making major profits. Are workers compensated fairly?

Numbers don’t lie. Workers earn the equivalent of $7.11 USD per day for an 8-hour work day. On top of this, many of the workers face 12-16 hour days, and are not consistently compensated for overtime.

Working conditions are dangerous.  Work place temperatures can reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Workers lack proper equipment to handle products that can reach 200 degrees Fahrenheit in the course of production, and they are often burned with splashing hot liquids. They must buy their own safety equipment and uniforms. They have been threatened with firing for reporting on-the-job injuries.

In addition, the workers bargaining power is limited, since only 100 of the 1,400 employees are  permanent employees. The rest are “contractual” workers, subcontracted by six agencies.

NutriAsia workers fights back!

The workers have had enough. With the support of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Workers’ Movement for Change Federation, and Nagkakaisang Manggagawa ng NutriAsia (NMN), they have been organizing for their rights, and launched a picket line in May, then went on strike in  June.  NutriAsia responded by sending in 300 Philippine National Police officers to harass workers in an attempt to break the strike. Twenty people were arrested then, and 4 were hospitalized.

These strikers feel that they are up against the regime of Rodrigo Duterte, President of the Phillipines, as well as NutriAsia.  This is because the Philippine National Police is being used as a private army to attack strikers on NurtiAsia’s behalf.  In the three months of labor actions, there have been two violent dispersal efforts by the PNP on NutriAsia’s behalf.

Graphic: Bayan.

Graphic: Bayan.

NurtiAsia 19 released following acts of international solidarity

Only one day after their arrest on July 30, the NutriAsia 19 were released from jail. This occurred after a campaign for their release went viral— in large part due to activists in the U.S. and Philippines calling protests outside the Philippine consulate. The release of the NutriAsia 19 demonstrates the power of a unity and solidarity.

The workers struggle has no borders

The NutriAsia Workers feel that they are in a good position to unionize if if the company is unable to restart production in August, as demand for NutriAsia products increases in the coming months. BAYAN USA – an alliance of 20 Filipino organizations in the U.S. – calls for all concerned people to support the NutriAsia workers strike.

This group says, “We demand NutriAsia immediately comply with the demands of the workers including regularizing the  entire workforce, providing safe and healthy working conditions, providing a livable wage, and respecting their right to unionize.”

Support the NutriAsia workers. Boycott NutriAsia products.  Get the word out about the strike, and stay in touch. For more information, please visit: tinyurl.com/SupportNutriAsiaStrike