With a population of more than half a million people, San Jose Del Monte is the most populated city in the province of Bulacan. It is also one of the most rapidly industrializing cities north of the capital city of Manila and can be reached in one to two hours of land travel, depending on the traffic, via the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx).
San Jose Del Monte is home to Allied Metals, Inc., a company built in 1965 that pioneered in the fabrication of stainless steel commercial kitchen equipment. It is here—inside a plant sitting on a sprawling 10,000 square meter lot—that Joselito C. Dalauidao, plant manager, has spent the most productive years of his life.
Entering as a 23-year-old, fresh graduate of electrical engineering from the University of Santo Tomas (UST) in 1994, Dalauidao, now 50, said that Allied Metals is the only company he has worked for. “I started as a cadet engineer,” training in sales, project management, and the like.
In 1965, Dalauidao said Allied Metals was just a homegrown operation in the garage of its owners, Florentino “Ren” P. Silayan and his wife Felici. Today, 53 years later, it boasts of 168 workers and supervisors, including its sales and services personnel in Mandaue, Cebu.
According to Dalauidao, Allied Metals’ list of clients includes local and international hotels, like the Sofitel Philippine Plaza, Heritage Hotel, City of Dreams Manila, Excelsior Hotel in Hong Kong, and the InterContinental Hotel in Abu Dhabi. Its most loyal client is Jollibee, a Filipino chain of fastfood restaurants that accounts for the company’s bulk orders for 80 Jollibee stores annually. Jollibee owner Tony Tan Caktiong is a longtime customer of the Silayans and is one of their oldest friends.
Dalauidao revealed that, for the most part, he has stayed with the company because its owners do not regard them as mere workers. “He (Mr. Silayan) talks to us the way a father would. And you can converse to him even if you are just an ordinary employee.”
He added that the Silayans are not averse to having unionized workers. “When I came here, there was already a union. I learned later that Mr. Ramon L. Kabigting, one of the company’s originators, was also a founder of the Federation of Free Workers (FFW).”
The workers’ union at Allied Metals has always been affiliated with the FFW, a national trade union federation that is a member of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).
One of the largest global confederations of national trade union centers, the ITUC is a Belgium-based organization linking over 300 trade unions from 160 countries.
In the Philippines, its affiliates represent the broadest spectrum of labor federations: from the militant Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) to the centrist Sentro ng Nagkakaisang Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) and the FFW, to the traditionally conservative Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP).
There was a time, however, when union troubles occurred. At the height of the punishing 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, Allied Metals was forced to “lay-off almost half of its workers, because we had to survive,” Dalauidao said. In the ensuing massive retrenchment, the union mounted a strike in 1998.
Things cooled off, Dalauidao recalled, when the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) stepped in with a Return-to-Work order. All the union officers resigned and a new set of officers took their place.
In 2016, the FFW and the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) began implementing and promoting the “Principled, Inclusive, and Business Sustainable Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Approach” in the Philippines, with the Danish Trade Union Council for International Development Cooperation or LO/FTF Council as main partner.
Funded by the government of Denmark, the three million Danish kroner (P24 million) CSR project began on July 1, 2016 and will end in June 2020.
Alvin Nobuya, LO/FTF regional consultant, said the CSR project is based on the United Nations guiding principles, the International Labor Organization (ILO) Declaration of Multinational Enterprises, and the Declaration of Human Rights, to name a few.
“We are also promoting the inclusion and participation of workers and workers representatives in the development and implementation of CSR programs. We would also like to see the program contribute to the sustainability of business,” he added.
Over at Allied Metals, 38-year-old, new union president Ronald Enver Regondola made the effort to involve Allied Metals, with its 68-strong union members, in the FFW-ECOP CSR project.
“I was invited at the FFW headquarters in Manila and we discussed a CSR project that would help improve the working relationship between union and management. I was very interested because at that time, our relationship was not very good,” Regondola said.He added that there were “boundaries” between union and management. “Like there were matters that management considered solely for management and issues that were only the concern of the union. They did not work together,” Regondola said.
For his part, Joselito C. Dalauidao, Allied Metals plant manager, said that management was amenable to participating in the CSR project. “The higher ups said the CSR project was sound so they allowed it. They also saw the new union president as non-confrontational and more open to dialogue in threshing out contentious issues.”
OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY & HEALTH
Regondola said their union focused on two trainings offered by the CSR project—the Basic Occupational Safety and Health (BOSH) and the Labor-Management Cooperation (LMC).
“We began with BOSH, starting with 15 participants; eight from the workers union and seven from management. It helped improve our awareness of safety,” he said.
Mark Bryan de Jesus Alonzo, Allied Metals production engineer and one of the BOSH participants on the management-side, agreed with Regondola. “Before, it seemed as if safety was not a priority. No one was specifically assigned to attend to it. With BOSH, we now have a committee that focuses on workers’ safety.”
Alonzo added that BOSH allowed them to have workers train as Red Cross first aiders. “They attend to cuts and other worker accidents, unlike before, when only the plant guards gave first aid, using a first aid kit they kept in their drawers.”
The BOSH training tackled issues concerning the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the workplace. This involved the use of face masks, goggles, gloves, and safety shoes that protected workers from the sharp, stainless steel they shaped and welded.
Observed Regondola: “When we did not have the PPE, management made workers pay half of the amount needed to purchase safety shoes. And these shoes were not of good quality, usually lasting only three months.”
Through the safety committee, Regondola said they were able to get better quality safety shoes and that this time, management agreed to shoulder the full cost of the shoes.
Dalauidao said that the safety committee proved very useful in monitoring safety compliance inside the plant. “I do not have to keep on reminding them to wear goggles or masks or safety shoes. It’s the Committee handling that.”
Allied Metals workers and management set up their Labor-Management Cooperation (LMC) on Oct. 5, 2018. It has a membership of five from management, including the plant manager; and another five from the union (including the union president). Four committees were created, namely: Sports, Health, Training, and Grievance.
Regondola said the LMC has proven to be very helpful in ironing out differences between labor and management. “There is an openness between management and workers. There are informal avenues for stating what we want, unlike before, when it was only through the grievance committee. Now, we can address problems before they became complicated.”
Dalauidao concluded by saying: “When there is less injury, there is less time for workers to be sidelined from work. When there is less injury, there is greater productivity.” G