Unionists, after a failed meeting at the Verizon headquarters, found themselves being chased by armed men in black masks and black outfits, identified in SWAT and Philippine National Police uniforms, while travelling in an unmarked white van along Alabang on Wednesday, May 11, 2016. The group is composed of representative from Communications Workers of America (CWA) union, BPO Industry Employees’ Network (BIEN) Pilipinas, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and an international telecommunications union called Uni.
“It was like being in a movie–they were dressed all in black with masks and automatic rifles,” Tim Dubnau, an organizing coordinator at CWA union, recalled in an interview with Fortune. “At first they were demanding that we get out. One officer even hit the door with his gun. But we didn’t open up, we knew our right,” he added.
The unionists just left Verizon’s Philippine headquarters at Northgate Cyberzone in Alabang, Muntinlupa City to confront the firm regarding issues like underpaid yet overworked Filipino call center agents. CWA said Verizon has allegedly been “offshoring customer service calls to numrous call centers in the Philippines, where workers are paid just $1.78 an hour (roughly P83) and forced to work overtime without compensation.”
According to the representatives, they were unable to speak to Verizon’s officials because they refused to meet with them. As they left, the incident happened. In a report by Fortune, a KMU representative negotiated with the police. The matter was later on sorted out in a local police station and then the unionists were allowed to leave.
The bigger picture
The confrontation is the evident result of a bigger and long-due issue in the United States.
Verizon workers in the United States for more than a month now. These workers have worked without a contract since August 1 and have decided to walk off their jobs on April 13 after idle negotiations with the company. It is because of this situation that CWA reported that workers in the Philippines and Mexico are required to extend the usual 8-hr working hours without pay – an act against the Labor Code of the Philippines.
These US workers are standing up for their jobs and benefits. According to an article by Workers.org, the company had a history of bad employer record. In 2000, 80,000 Verizon workers went on strike; 45,000 in 2011 went on a strike that lasted for 2 weeks. This 2016, 39,000 workers are on the same situation.