Regent eyes Pasig exit as Vico Sotto sides with striking workers

A longtime manufacturer of popular snack brands said it is planning to move its business outside Pasig City, claiming that the mayor has been one-sided on the arrest of its 23 striking workers over a number of labor issues.

“RFC (Regent Foods Corporation) may simply accept its fate that the Pasig City administration will unjustly make life hard for it and its 400-strong workforce, and contemplate simply bringing its business elsewhere,” the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

Regent said it has been operating its production facility in Pasig for three decades. Among its brands are Snacku, Cheese Ring, Tempura, Sweet Corn, Cheese Ball, Labzter, and Custard Cake.

The food company said it asked for Sotto's assistance in pacifying the tense situation between the company and its workers.

“Before any of this had happened, RFC actually wrote his office to ask his assistance in amicably pacifying the situation. This request merely fell on deaf ears, which is precisely what constrained RFC to resort to private security assistance for the sole purpose of reopening the gates of the company and resuming its usual business operations,” said Regent.

The company added that the protesters attacked police deployed in the area with “sharp weapons” on November 9 which led to their arrest, but Sotto said Regent ordered their arrest.

Twenty-three Regent workers protested as they demanded regularization and pay raise, They also complained of non-implementation of the collective bargaining agreement, non-recognition of the new leadership within the union and physical and verbal abuses by management.

Over the weekend, Sotto asked Regent to withdraw the charges against the strikers.

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“These people are not criminals; they do not have the goal of hurting you. They are fighting for what they believe to be just. You can continue with the labor dispute without sending the poor and powerless to jail!,” said Sotto in a social media post.

However, Regent said that Sotto “lectured” them “to be more humanitarian” during a meeting, but the mayor refused to listen to its side.

“Mayor Vico deliberately overlooks that RFC is not the complainant who pressed these criminal charges, RFC did not order their arrest, and RFC did not even participate in the preliminary investigation of these individuals,” said Regent.

It added, “But, the truth is, RFC only meant to protect the rights of its non-striking employees who were prevented by the strikers from working and providing for their own families.

Meanwhile, 11 of the detained workers were set to be released after posting bail on Monday through the help of Sotto. Twelve others have posted bail earlier.

Interior Secretary Eduard Año said that local governments should not take sides in issues like this.

"Para sa akin, ang LGU (local government unit) dito ay mag-maintain ng peace and order, but do not take sides. Because this is between DOLE (Department ot Labor and Employment), company, and the workers," he said.

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