Still fighting for justice: Dusit Hotel workers march to SC; denounce ‘martial law on labor’

Ten years after the workers of the Dusit Thani Hotel were arbitrarily dismissed from work and strangely upheld by the Supreme Court, a march-picket at the high court was held to show that their resistance had not waned even a bit.

Members of the National Union of Workers in Hotel, Restaurant and Allied Industries, led by the dismissed workers of Dusit Hotel Nikko who were still wearing their Dusit IDs, marched and staged a picket at the Supreme Court today to protest what they described as “martial law” in the labor front.

“While people think that martial law was revived through the newly enacted cybercrime law, the truth is, martial law has always been in effect especially in the labor sector,” Reynaldo Rasing, president of the Dusit Hotel Nikko Chapter (DHNC-NUHWRAIN), said.

The workers called on the recently appointed Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno to convene an en banc review of the anomalous decision in 2008 of the Second Division of the Supreme Court when Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco penned the infamous “shaved heads are illegal strike” ruling against the Dusit workers.

We would like to point out that the Court did not even bother to address the issue of reversal of a doctrine of law by a mere division; neither did the Court address the issue of improper constitution of the Second Division on the ground that Justice Reyes had then retired. The Second Division simply dismissed our motions for reconsideration without addressing these very serious allegations, Rasing added.

In 2002, members of the DHNC-NUHWRAIN were fired from work for shaving their heads in protest of management’s dilatory tactics in the then ongoing CBA negotiations. Union members were later forced to hold a picket – but not yet a full-blown strike – when Dusit did not allow them to enter the hotel premises to work.

About 90 workers were arbitrarily terminated, including 29 DHNC officers that virtually wiped out the union leadership, and 136 others were suspended. “It was obviously a union-busting act of the Dusit management,” Rasing added.

When the case was elevated to the high court, its Second Division declared – through the infamous “Velasco doctrine” – that the Dusit workers were indeed guilty of “illegal strike,” thus redefining if not distorting the definition of a workers’ strike.

In 2010, the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association declared that there were no sufficient grounds for the Supreme Court’s ruling because, in the first place, the Dusit workers did not actually resorted to any work stoppage. The ILO body also emphasized that the said decision of equating peaceful and lawful concerted action to illegal strike “will result in violation of the freedom of association.”

“Despite the legal setbacks, we, the Dusit workers, have remained optimistic to eventually achieve justice, considering the ‘small victories’ that we occasionally receive, like the ILO mission’s findings and recommendations and our unyielding commitment not to capitulate to the threats and cajoling and bribing attempts of Dusit – like its recent offer, which was done house-to-house, for us to accept so-called separation pays,” Rasing further revealed.

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