DAVAO CITY – Workers reported for work at 5:00 am Friday after their nine-day strike against the Japanese-owned banana plantation Sumifru Corp. in Compostela Valley.
It was a reporting for duty after they concluded the strike with the reinstatement of 147 workers.
Vicente Barrios, union president of Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyapa Farm (Namasufa), consider the reinstatement “a temporary but significant victory in the banana workers’ continuing saga against the Japanese company’s vicious attack on workers’ rights.”
In an interview with Davao Today, Barrios narrated the events that started with Sumifru’s Packing Plant (PP) 90 padlocking the plant “because there was a dispute between the company and the landowner”.
Read related story: Banana workers from Japanese firm’s 11 plants to go on strike
They were then told to report for work in a mini packing plant, MPU 230-A from June 3-7.
On June 8, Barrios said “company guards refused to let us enter for two reasons, first they told us that the owner has closed PP90 and second is because they have removed Mobasco (Montevista Banana Services Cooperative) as a service provider.”
Mobasco is the cooperative managing the workers in PP90.
Namasufa declared a strike on June 10 after all 147 regular workers of PP 90 were illegally dismissed from work, “a move that constituted union busting,” said Barrios.
Barrios said workers from PP 92 also joined Namasufa’s strike while other workers from packing plants 95, 370 and 340 created work slowdowns “to pressure Sumifru to resolve the issues.”
On Thursday, a compromise agreement was signed between Sumifru management, Mobasco and the worker’s union at around 3 pm. Representatives of the regional offices of the Department of Labor and Employment, National Conciliation and Mediation Board, National Labor Relations Commission also facilitated the agreement signing.
The agreement states “that all 147 workers of PP 220/90 (103-union members of Namasufa-Naflu-KMU and 44 other workers) will report back to work on rotational basis adhering to the manning requirement at Mini Packing Plant Unit 230 (MPU 230) in Valencia 2, New Alegria, Compostela, Province of Comval on June 19, 2015.”
The parties also agreed “that all 136 union members of PP 230/92 workers union-Naflu-KMU and other sympathizers will report back to their respective work stations” on Friday.
The company also agreed to pay two days, covering June 8-9, amount of salary for workers.
The agreement also states that “no backwages shall be given to the affected workers for the period of June 10-18, 2015” while, “work rendered on June 3-7, 2015 shall be paid based on actual work rendered.”
A month earlier, the workers’ unions coming together as Banana Industry Growers and Workers against Sumifru (Bigwas) also protested against the forced implementation of the piece rate pay scheme or pakyawan which depressed further the workers’ already meager wages.
Read related story: Japanese banana company concedes to workers, revokes piece-rate scheme
“Strong mass actions from the unions compelled the suspension of the piece rate system and the return of the hourly rate on April 22,” Barrios said.
“Time and again, they have tried to break us but failed. We expect this battle to be drawn out for as long as we fight against capitalist abuse and exploitation, Sumifru will always consider the unions to be a stumbling block to their quest for super profits,” Barrios said.
Kilusang Mayo Uno Southern Mindanao congratulated the workers for their successful strike.
Carlo Olalo, spokesperson of KMU Southern Mindanao said that industrial disputes surround the banana plantations in Compostela due to Sumifru’s grossly anti-worker and anti-union acts.
Olalo said that the repressive labor relations that characterize the area became the subject of an international fact-finding mission led by the International Labour Organisation in 2009.
Barrios himself survived an ambush in 2006 that left him critically injured and one worker dead.
Olalo said “the workers are fighting for the preservation of their unions, relying on their collective strength and consistent militant action to fend off Sumifru’s successive attacks.” (davaotoday.com)