Ambassador Virginia Benavidez is now claiming that she never made anti-union statements during a meeting with the Canterbury Pilipino Assistance Group (CPAG) last weekend. Leaders of the Filipino community group Migrante Aotearoa are calling on the Philippine Embassy to offer public apology and be open to all groups engaged in efforts to assist distressed Filipinos instead of advising Filipinos to stay away from unions.
“Kapag may problema kayo sa trabaho, huwag kayong lumapit sa unions at sa media lalo na yung nagpo-post sa New Zealand Herald.” (If you have problems with your job, don’t approach the unions and media especially those posting stories in the New Zealand Herald.” Thus was the Ambassador’s statement as recalled by Migrante officials present in the CPAG meeting.
Marty de Lima, coordinator of Migrante chapter in Christchurch, says, “As one of Board members of CPAG, I was present at the meeting and was seated at the front. I heard exactly what Amb. Benavidez said about discouraging distressed Filipinos to approach the unions especially those who post stories in the New Zealand Herald. I was shocked and dismayed with her statement considering that the unions have been very helpful to Filipinos and other migrants needing assistance which the Embassy could not provide. Filipinos who have problems also approach me as I am the Migrante coordinator and a delegate of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU).”
“It is regrettable that some officials of CPAG bowed down to pressure from the Philippine Embassy to hide the truth about Benavidez’ anti-union remarks. CPAG loses its credibility as some officials echoed the lies and denials of a government official who failed to promote and uphold Filipinos’ right to join unions. We urge other officials and members of CPAG to refuse to be accomplices in covering up the Ambassdor’s booboos against NZ unions,” de Lima added.
“We stand proud to be active members of unions that are campaigning against migrant workers exploitation in New Zealand. Several Filipinos working for Christchurch rebuild are among those who have grievances are now seeking support from Migrante and the unions to ensure they get a fair deal,” Migrante noted.
“A formal public apology is definitely in order. The Philippine Embassy must stop any more lies and attempts to cover up Amb. Benavidez’ anti-union remarks. We believe the Ambassador’s anti-union and anti-media remarks are likely in reference to a particular case headlined in the New Zealand Herald that was handled by the First Union and Union Network of Migrants (Unemig) last year,” Dennis Maga, Migrante Aotearoa national coordinator and First Union organiser, stated. [related story onhttp://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10912087]
“Instead of giving negative remarks against unions, we urge Amb. Benavidez to be open to all groups assisting Filipinos in distress. If she cannot appreciate the efforts of unions and community groups like Migrante to assist our distressed compatriots, the least she could do is refrain from discouraging people to join and support such groups that exist precisely because of gross lack of protection from the Philippine Embassy in NZ and around the world,” Maga concluded.