Workers call for job retention amid reports of Sofitel ‘rehabilitation’, hotel repeats closure

MANILA, Philippines – Workers of the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila on Monday appealed to the holding company Philippine Plaza Holdings Inc. (IPSHP) to keep their jobs after the reported “rehabilitation” of the 51-year-old hotel.

In a press conference on Monday, the National Union of Hotel, Restaurant and Allied Workers (NUWHRAIN) called on PPHI to respect the collective agreement and recognize the unionization of hotel workers.

“Gusto po namin– Rejoice in the completion of the Sofitel. Dapat yes continuous employment without [the] loss of seniority rights and benefits under the collective bargaining agreement. Ready to wait,” Nestor Cabada, president of NUWHRAIN, told Rank&File at a press conference.

(What we want — what the workers at Sofitel want, is not a break. Employment must be continuous without [the] loss of seniority rights and benefits under the collective bargaining agreement. We are willing to wait until the Sofitel reopens. We are willing to wait.)

“Lahat po ng benefta ‘pag nagbalik po kami ay ibibigai at saka po ay i-accept the workers who are unionized in May the existing union. “Yun lamang po, very little po ng aming angindi,” he added.

(All benefits will be provided when we return, and they must accept that the workers are unionized and that there is a union. That’s all we ask, which is a very small request.)

On May 10, Sofitel announced that it will close and cease operations on July 1, 2024. The last day of operation will be June 30, 2024.

Despite the union’s claim that the Sofitel will be rehabilitated starting July 1, PPHI president Esteban Peña Sy clarified that the hotel in question will not be rehabilitated but will be closed permanently.

“Speculation that the hotel will not cease operations on July 1, but will simply undergo some renovations is completely wrong. The hotel owners are responsible investors and they consider human life as their number one concern,” Sy said in a Viber message.

“As it is expert advice that the 50-year-old hotel is not safe for its guests and employees, the owners have taken the painful decision to close it, even though the hotel is having its best historical business performance in 48 years function from last year”, he added.

Sy also said there is no certainty about the hotel’s future.

“Since we do not own the land on which the Sofitel Philippine Plaza is located, we are uncertain about the future of the hotel. We cannot commit to something we are not sure of or have no control over,” said Sy.

The land occupied by the hotel is owned by the State Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).

On June 14, 2023, GSIS and Sofitel amended the lease contract, which is said to be valid until June 26, 2041.

NUWHRAIN also claimed that there has been a “union busting” by Sofitel management, which has been denied by Sy.

He denied they were firing union members and stressed the hotel would close and cease operations due to “security concerns.”

“The painful decision was made after receiving advice from independent and internationally recognized consulting firms, and the Occupational Safety and Health Center of the Department of Labor and Employment,” said Sy.

“We are offering severance packages to all hotel employees, whether they are union members or non-union staff,” he added.

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