What used to be a well-loved Filipino brand of condiments, NutriAsia is making headlines as of late for all the wrong reasons. Business and Human Rights Resource Centre reported that “Workers went on strike at a NutriAsia factory in the Philippines because of low wages and unhealthy working conditions. The workers also alleged that NutriAsia practiced contractualization—extending regular employment agreements to less than 10 percent of its 1,400-person workforce.” NutriAsia management, however, was firm in their stance that they are not engaging in illegal employment practices. Rappler reported that back in February, “DOLE had ordered NutriAsia to place over 900 workers in permanent positions. It found that NutriAsia’s contractors were engaging in labor-only contracting practices. Moreover, DOLE said that NutriAsia was found violating labor laws and general labor standards.”
But the most recent violent dispersal of NutriAsia workers and their supporters who went on strike has taken an extremely dangerous turn. PhilStar reported: “According to an alert from rights group Karapatan and labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno, around 300 NutriAsia workers and their supporters were violently dispersed by the company’s security personnel and police forces after an ecumenical mass was held outside NutriAsia’s factory in Marilao, Bulacan. ‘Scores were injured, while many others remain missing,’ the groups said.”
However, NutriAsia said in a statement that the violence began around 2:45 p.m. when someone “fired a shot” and “started to hurl rocks” from the side of the 200 workers of Toll Packer BMirk on strike and their supporters.
Facebook user and activist Angelo V. Suarez wrote, “Up till now the police & their lackeys claim it was the workers who started the violence. Yet every video document going around of the police dispersal of the NutriAsia workers’ picket consistently shows the exact opposite: police hurling rocks, security personnel truncheoning workers and activists, petty thugs collaring a priest, goons beating supporters up. There is no doubt about the legitimacy of the strike and the peaceful militancy of its conduct.”
Netizens cry foul over a photo of an elderly woman injured during the dispersal, which is making rounds online, sparking outrage and widespread boycott of the popular condiments produced by the company. Aside from the general public, a number of non-governmental organizations and groups decided to boycott NutriAsia products, in solidarity with its workers.
Sources: Twitter, Facebook
Feature image: Bulatlat.com