2 October 2018
Municipal-wide strike paralyzes multinational fruit corp in ComVal
Over 900 workers of multinational fruit giant Sumifru Corporation Philippines in Compostela Valley went on strike yesterday, as management refused to engage in any negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyapa Farm (NAMASUFA), the local union.
The striking workers of NAMASUFA, which is affiliated with the National Federation of Labor Unions-Kilusang Mayo Uno (NAMASUFA-NAFLU-KMU), paralyzed operations across eight of Sumifru’s banana packing plants. They have set up a peaceful picket and ceased all work in the plants.
According to KMU’s Southern Mindanao chapter, Sumifru’s failure to negotiate with their own union is a violation of Article 262 of the Labor Code. The striking workers are recognized as Sumifru employees by law, and thus have the right to be heard by management, stated KMU.
“Sumifru has arrogantly and blatantly disregarded labor rights, ignoring our longstanding and legitimate demands for regularization and a significant wage hike,” said Paul John Dizon, NAMASUFA President.
The striking workers, hired as contractuals in 2006, are now covered by a June 2017 Supreme Court ruling asserting that a formal employer-employee relationship exists between Sumifru and NAMASUFA members. Sumifru had argued that NAMASUFA members were contractuals employed by third-party labor cooperatives, but the SC ordered the corporation to recognize the workers as Sumifru employees.
According to NAMASUFA, their union was already the certified sole and exclusive bargaining representative of Sumifru workers. They submitted a CBA proposal to Sumifru on August 13, but no progress has been made as Sumifru management ignored their proposal.
Sumifru makes P11 million daily in sales from its operations in Compostela Valley, according to NAMASUFA. “Yet they want us to be satisfied with our minimum wage (MW), which is one of the lowest MW rates in the country, which has never been enough for a decent standard of living. Our wages have become even more insufficient in the face of incessant price hikes due to the TRAIN law,” said Dizon.
“Sumifru has violated our right to freedom of association by colluding with the military to intimidate and harass union members who are fighting against their unfair labor practices,” said Dizon. “They are also violating our right to security of tenure by refusing to regularize us and negotiate with our union despite the 2017 SC ruling.”
NAMASUFA cited an April 2018 fact-finding mission to Compostela Valley, which reported that Sumifru workers were being targeted and red-tagged by the 66th IBPA, and discouraged from joining NAMASUFA or any KMU-affiliated organization, or participating in union activities.
Since Duterte imposed Martial Law in Mindanao in 2017, militarization and fascist attacks against Sumifru workers and their union escalated, with union members accused of everything from being terrorists to being NPA members, according to NAMASUFA. Moreover, there was an attempt to assassinate NAMASUFA Board of Directors member Vincent Ageas last August. These cases were filed before the recently concluded International People’s Tribunal in Brussels, Belgium, where Duterte was found guilty of large-scale violations of human rights, including rampant attacks against the labor sector.
NAMASUFA member Jerson Lastimoso was also murdered in 2006, when a group of union members were ambushed by military elements.
“We are human! We have rights! We will never be cowed by Duterte’s Martial law. Our legitimate strike will challenge Duterte’s fascist dictatorship and assert our rights against the greedy machinations of Sumifru,” said Dizon.
KMU also called on all workers and the Filipino people to support Sumifru workers in their just and legitimate strike, and to hold Sumifru accountable for their inhumane treatment of their workers.###
Paul John Dizon, NAMASUFA-NAFLU-KMU President — 09381976116