Alta Mode in the Philippines
Who owns it
Alta Mode Incorporated
What they produce
Who they produce for
Abercrombie and Fitch
Mactan Export Processing Zone II in Lapu-Lapu City, Philippines
Number of workers
Summary of Problems at the Factory
- Factory shut down as immediate result of union certification but has recently reopened
- More than 100 workers (including all union leaders and some members) put on forced leave on same day Alta Mode Workers Union (AMWU) scheduled to vote for collective bargaining rights
- Factory filed criminal cases against union members
- Tampering with ability for AMWU to have a fair union election
- Criminal charges filed against union leaders by factory management
- Voluntary recognition by management of the union as the bargaining agent for the workers.
- Criminal charges against the union to be dropped by management.
- Negotiations for a bargaining agreement to start with the workers main grievance on excessive quota to be discussed and negotiated into the collective bargaining agreement.
The workers at Alta Mode began organizing to form a union in early 2008 as the Alta Mode Workers Union with support for the Labor Party-Philippines. The workers had an election on September 7, 2009.
Two days before the certification elections, a meeting of Alta Mode workers under the guise of an assembly of cooperative members was called. The agenda of the meeting was not cooperative matters but the certification elections and the need to defeat the AMWU in the vote. On the day of the certification elections last September 7, all the union members and officers plus several other non-union workers were put on forced leave. This clearly constitutes employer interference in the exercise of self-organization. Article 248 (e) of the Labor Code states that it is unfair labor practice to discriminate in regard to wages, hours of work, and other terms and conditions of employment in order to encourage or discourage membership in any labor organization.
The AMWU members were the first batch of workers to vote in the certification elections but since they were on forced leave they were not allowed into the shop floor and production area. Supervisors and managers were free to make a last-minute campaign among the workers since no union members were in the shop floor. AMWU won 107 votes, "no union" got 88 votes but the certification elections remains unresolved since 27 ballots are not yet counted since were challenged by the union. These ballots were cast by supervisory employees, line leaders and contractual workers who AMWU alleges are not part of the bargaining unit. The Labor Department.recently rules to include the 27 contested ballots even with the clear evidence of freedom of association violations.
Within hours after the end of the certification elections, AMWU members held a sit-down protest within the factory compound. After 24 hours, the employer conceded to a memorandum of agreement (MOA) to implement work rotation instead of forced leave and financial assistance to workers who will temporarily laidoff. But two days after the MOA was signed in the presence of Labor Department officials, the employer reneged on the settlement and put the factory on six month temporary shutdown.
AMWU officers immediately filed a notice of strike on the basis of union busting and members unanimously voted to go on strike. But due to the restrictions of the Labor Code, AMWU could not immediately go on strike despite union busting by the employer. Further, if AMWU did go on strike, workers cannot setup a picket at the factory gates since they will not be allowed inside the MEZ compound since there are temporarily out of work. Thus AMWU members had to force their way into the MEZ compound.
While AMWU members were setting up their campout at the factory gates, they discovered a truck within the factory premises that is being filled up by materials and they suspect it might be an attempt at a runaway shop. Alta Mode has sister garments companies called Frankhaus International Corp. and MK Corp. operating in Taytay, Rizal. AMWU suspects that the temporary shutdown is a ruse to shift work to the sister companies and bust the union in Cebu.
The workers were forced to compromise due to pressure placed on them by the Labor Department, which found them guilty of holding an illegal strike. They were also pressured by the civil case filed by the landowner of the EPZ for illegal picketing. Obviously these cases were only filed to force the workers to settle as they were lifted after the workers compromised, choosing to receive the separation package rather than the engage in a long legal battle that could last for years.
Communication with Buyers
ILRF has reached out to Abercrombie. However Abercrombie hasn't provided adequate information on the steps it is taking to remedy this situation.
Reports and More Information
What You Can Do
Next time you shop at Abercrombie and Fitch, take the time to ask about labor standards at the factories that produce A&F and Hollister clothing. Encourage the company to be more transparent about its expectations for suppliers.