Workers employed by the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila are demanding a clear explanation for the surprise termination at the end of this month of more than 1,000 employees. Almost half of those losing their livelihoods are full-time, permanent employees, said the Center of the United and Progressive Workers (SENTRO) during a June 3 press conference and solidarity rally with global union International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF). 

Representing two Sofitel union chapters, SENTRO with IUF is calling for transparency from Philippine Plaza Holdings, Inc., which owns the hotel, regarding the hotel’s abrupt June 30 closure announcement, allegedly for structural renovations, an explanation for surprise termination and management’s plans for the hotel. 

Sofitel this year is reporting its best business performance in almost half a century.  

“We gave our whole life to Sofitel, then they will suddenly terminate us. A lot of us are deep in problems right now,” said Philippine Plaza Supervisory Chapter President Arnold Bautista on behalf of the Sofitel workers whom he represents during the press conference

Bautista recounted how management consistently informed staff of upcoming renovations only to abruptly announce a complete closure on May 7 and distribute surprise termination notices to employees the following day. 

“If hotel operations can proceed while the renovations are ongoing, then a closure is not necessary. If the safety concerns are serious enough to warrant a closure, then why is Sofitel still accepting guests and deploying workers in the hotel? Has it been knowingly putting both guests and workers at risk?” asked IUF and SENTRO in an online statement.  

Sofitel’s workers are urging transparency regarding the owners’ plans. “We’re willing to wait if Sofitel will be renovated and reopened. What the union and the workers want is that we won’t be terminated. If they have other plans, [they should] include the employees who have contributed to their business,” said Philippine Plaza Chapter President Nestor Cabada during the press conference on behalf of the Sofitel workers whom he represents.

“As long as one of us is still standing, we will fight,” he added.

The Philippines is ranked as one of the 10 worst countries for working people. Unions there face attempts to bust their organization, arrests and violence. Four union activists were killed for their work in 2023 and, last year, seven delegates representing the Philippines labor movement were awarded  AFL-CIO George Meany-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., in recognition of the Philippines labor movement’s resilience, persistence and courage. 

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the News from The Solidarity Center