Workers Who Make Your iPhone Possible Are Fighting Labor Abuse in the Philippines With Selfies and Hashtags
Suffering from low wages, contractualization, and indecent working conditions, many Filipino workers who create the microchips used for smartphones, tablets, and other tech gadgets rarely get to use the tools that they themselves have produced in the assembly lines.
Yet Filipino workers that have made our cellphone calls, text messages, social networking, and online activities possible are now using these gadgets to fight union busting and other labor abuses.
The #bringbacknxp24 campaign by workers from an NXP Semiconductors plant in Cabuyao, Laguna, is one fight that has effectively combined an active online drive with on-the-ground protest. Laguna is a province located south of Manila, the country's capital.
NXP Semiconductors is one of the world’s top 20 electronics manufacturers and supplies microchips and other parts for high-tech companies like Apple and Asus. In the Philippines, it employs over 1,600 regular workers and 1,700 contract employees.
Workers were demanding an 8 percent wage increase but management was only willing to grant a 3.5 percent raise during the negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. The workers organized collective actions on April 9, 17, 19, and May 1 – which are all government-declared holidays – but the management described these activities as ‘illegal strikes’ and cited them as a reason to dismiss 24 union leaders on May 5, 2014.
The NXP workers have put up an online petition at Change.org and have gathered more than 500 signatures for their cause. The petition highlighted the demand of the workers for higher wages:
The fight of the NXP workers is a fight of all workers, of everyone. All of us need a wage increase that’s significant, not just morsels of alms. All of us deserve employment that’s regular, not just contractual. Many have already been dismissed from their jobs just because they asserted what’s due to them.
Chronicles of Carlos, a labor activist, explained that the online component of the #bringbacknxp24 campaign has shown the potential of social media in bringing labor issues to the greater public:
In around three weeks’ time, the Facebook page has drawn over 1,000 likes and boasts of active daily engagement among its base and outer circles – something unusual for a relatively unpopular campaign and for a labor issue in the Philippines at that. The inspiring thing about the campaign is that NXP workers themselves are the ones sharing updates inside the company. Just recently, a worker uploaded a photo of the latest company memo that tries to sow confusion among the workforce. In another instance, a worker uploaded a photo of the company’s anti-union message contained in a paper strip.
The social media campaign is also calling on netizens to post selfies with placards in solidarity with the NXP workers on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #bringbacknxp24. The workers themselves have posted photos of themselves urging public support for their fight.
The campaign to reinstate the NXP workers has gathered the support of various organizations in Europe, Australia, China, Hongkong, Taiwan, and the US. Photos of solidarity messages from these countries were posted on the official Facebook page of the campaign:
The case of the NXP workers has already reached the central office of the country's Department of Labor and Employment. Negotiations are ongoing and workers are still appealing for more public support.