More than 1,500 Sumifru workers lost their jobs recently in Tagbina, Surigao del Sur after management stopped production last June.
Sumifru is one of Mindanao’s top exporting company engaged with sourcing, production, shipment, distribution, and marketing of fresh fruits, especially giant cavendish bananas.
One of its former worker, “Dodong” said management did not blame the coronavirus pandemic, but instead blamed the workers’ poor performance.
“Pinaagi sa mga trabahante nga wala nag tarong, ang mga saging nadaot, kaya nakaingon na jud ang head nga istop sa ang trabaho,” Dodong said.
(Because the workers haven’t done their job properly, many bananas had been damaged, that is why the head told us that work need to stop).
But Dodong said their productivity is affected by their agency that is holding their salaries. Workers report to work at six in the morning but worked undertime to find other sources of income such as “mamatong” or catching wild boar to sell for money.
Maliksi Cooperation, the agency handling the workers of Sumifru, has been deducting their salaries, Dodong claims.
“369 Pesos daw jud ang amuhang sweldo galing sa Sumifro pero ang muabot nalang sa amoa kay 320 Pesos nalang, bawas na ng agency unya minus pa jud ang damayan ug montuary.” he said.
(Our salary from Sumifro is 369 Pesos originally but we only receive 320 Pesos only, reduced by the agency then minus the “damayan” and montuary)
Workers like Dodong have no choice but to stay in the agency despite the unjust compensation, as there no other alternative employment.
Maliksi Corporation only gave them a verbal assurance that if they don’t resign from the agency, they will surely get their jobs back after ten months when Sumifru will reopen and resume production.
This leads to the situation where workers do not receive any compensation from the agency, despite working for years.
“Wala mi ka dawat bisag unsa nga ayuda galing sa agency, kami lang jud ang naningkamot nga mag pangita og paagi nga makakaon (We don’t receive any relief from the agency, we just strive to find means so that we can have food),” said Dodong.
Dodong said he and colleagues tried to work together to file a labor case on the company, but they did not pursue it out of fear since the agency told them that they would get their jobs back when the company returns.
For almost two months after losing his job in Sumifru, Dodong and his family have suffered from financial loss, not knowing where to get money to buy food for the next meal.
“Lisud kaayo kay wala ko kaugalingon nga lupa kaya wala jud lain pag pilian, manarabaho jud para sa uban” (It is very hard becasue I don’t have my own land, I don’t have any choice but to work for others) Dodong said
He also said that “Dili regular nga maka trabaho, 52 nako pero wala na ta mabuhat kay naaman koy pamilya, 3 nga anak na sa akoa ning salig” ( I can’t work regularly, I’m 51 but I don’t have a choice because I have a family, 3 children that depends on me).
Dodong couldn’t find a regular job as he volunteers working on people’s farms. When he doesn’t have work, Dodong manages his vegetable garden in his house.
“Basin wa’ nay mokuha sa ako sa bukid, naa pa pod mi makaon (If I don’t get hired in the farm, at least we have something to eat),” Dodong said.