The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), a national federation of agricultural workers, today expressed its support to the ongoing picket of port workers in Tibungco, Davao City against Japanese fruit giant SUMIFRU (Philippines) Corporation.
The port workers, who are employed in SUMIFRU’s cold storage unit are members of the AJMR Labor Union (AJMRLU), which has recently disassociated with a yellow union and now affiliated with the militant Association of Democratic Labor Organizations – Kilusang Mayo Uno (ADLO-KMU).
“We support the workers’ demand for the SUMIFRU management to immediately begin collective bargaining (CBA) with AJMRLU-ADLO-KMU,” said John Milton Lozande, UMA acting chairperson.
According to AJMRLU President Rene Diamora, it has been more than forty days since their union submitted their CBA proposal. Under the law, the employer is supposed to submit its counterproposal within ten (10) days but the SUMIFRU management has so far failed in taking appropriate action.
“AJMRLU’s recent affiliation with the militant ADLO-KMU should not be made an excuse for stalling negotiations. Management should not meddle or pressure the union with regards its crucial organizational decisions. It is the union’s right to associate and choose which federation or labor center truly represents the interests of the workers,” added Lozande.
Earlier this year, SUMIFRU, which controls vast banana plantations and several processing facilities in Davao provinces and Compostela Valley, met intense protests from agricultural workers when it implemented the pakyaw or piece rate wage scheme in its plantations and packaging plants. Workers under the alliance Banana Industry Growers and Workers Against Sumifru (BIGWAS) and unions affiliated with KMU in the Southern Mindanao Region (KMU-SMR) staged successful protests against this unilateral scheme which attempted to reduce workers’ wages by at least half.
SUMIFRU, which prides itself for its so-called “social responsibility and accountability” has been embroiled in its 12th labor dispute with more than 7,600 workers in its different branches in Regions 11 and 12 this year. This is 42% of the 18,100 total employees it has including managerial, supervisory, and technical staff.
Aside from the present labor dispute, SUMIFRU still has five (5) other pending labor cases involving 6,300 workers. On the other hand, the biggest pending cases are those in its Tboli Operations. These include violation/non-implementation of CBA; violation of existing company practices; contracting out-services normally performed; unfair labor practices; illegal transfer/demotion; bargaining deadlock and others.
“In the current case of the Davao port wokers, SUMIFRU is violating the union’s right to organize and collectively bargain under the ILO Conventions 87 and 98,” said Lozande.
“Multinational fruit giants like SUMIFRU practice trade union repression and trample upon the workers’ rights with ease due to neoliberal dictates and government policy practically allowing the unbridled expansion of these corporate agricultural plantations,” said Lozande.
To highlight the impact of these corporate plantations, UMA, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the national office and the Northern Mindanao chapter of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), and the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) will spearhead the formation of a national action network resisting the expansion of agricultural plantations in Mindanao.
KMU-SMR labor leader Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis will be one of the main speakers in the National Conference on Mindanao Plantations to be held on October 28, 9:00 am at the UP College of Education Auditorium in Diliman, Quezon City. The network, to be called REAP Mindanao Network will be launched during the conference. A press briefing will follow.
Other representatives of affected lumad, peasant and working class communities in Mindanao will provide testimonials on the impact of corporate agricultural plantations in the island.
The conference, which is part of activities of the island-wide protest caravan Manilakbayan ng Mindanao 2015, is open to the public.