DAVAO CITY, Philippines – A militant lawmaker hit out the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) 11 for the violent dispersal of workers of Japanese-owned banana firm Sumitomo Fruit Corp. (Sumifru) who went on strike in Compostela Valley Province.
Anakpawis Partylist Representative Ariel Casilao condemned the violent dispersal of striking workers in Compostela.
“We, more or less, have a clue of why the Duterte government is bitingly protecting the interest of the foreign monopoly firm, Japanese fruit firms pledged P12.9 billion of investments in plantation expansion operations,” Casilao said.
Casilao held Labor Secretary Bello accountable for issuing an AJ order. He said the violent dispersal is part of the martial rule in Mindanao that aims to protect “the interest of big foreign monopoly firms and landlords against people’s unrest.”
Anakpawis likened the incident to the Hacienda Luisita Massacre in November 2014, where the violent dispersal was due to the AJ order of then-Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas.
“The Duterte administration, in its totality, is an anti-people and anti-poor regime. We urge the workers and other marginalized sectors of Mindanao, to stand firm in asserting their rights to land, wages, and democratic rights,” Casilao said.
Violence erupted on Thursday after several unidentified men accompanied by police and military broke the strike camps. Dispersal team allegedly fired several shots and mauled a score of workers that injured and traumatized them.
The banana workers were on strike for 11 days, paralyzing the operations of 7 out of 11 packing plants in Compostela Valley province.
They went on strike after the Sumifru refused to enter into a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the workers.
Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyapa Farm (NAMASUFA), in a statement, blamed the labour department and the local government of Compostela for backing up the joint AFP-PNP-Sumifru dispersal operation.
“We are enraged at the ferocity of the strike dispersal,” said NAMASUFA President Paul John Dizon.
“We are ordinary workers who won a case at the Supreme Court and are merely claiming that victory by demanding a CBA. We kept all lines of communication open, we were willing to talk to Sumifru, but they shut the door on us and instead, mustered all their political muscle to secure an Assumption of Jurisdiction (AJ), which the DOLE and Sec. Bello immediately granted. It is unfair, callous, and unjust,” Dizon stressed.
On its June 2017 decision, Supreme Court recognized that a formal employer-employee relationship exists between Sumifru and NAMASUFA members.
“This was a valid strike. We have exhausted all avenues, even reaching the Supreme Court. Yet Sumifru still refuses to acknowledge us as a union empowered to bargain with them. We filed all the necessary documents and undertook the arduous process to wage a legal strike,” Dizon added.
The union insisted that the destruction of property and demolition of the strike camps were “carried out without a court order.”
They also deplored DOLE’s AJ as a “blatant violation of workers’ right to strike’, and considers it as a “pro-capitalist political tool which legitimizes violence against a union only asserting their legitimate claim to collectively bargain.”
DOLE issued an AJ, compelling the workers to return to work. It also stated that the company is losing P38 million per day and “that any stoppage of the company’s adversely affecting public good and public interest.”
But Melodina Gumanoy, secretary of NAMASUFA, slammed DOLE’s decision for favoring the interests of foreign capitalists like Sumifru instead of the workers.
“Out of millions of Sumifru’s profit, we’re only asking for around P1 million for a salary increase and benefits for us banana workers,” Gumanoy said.
She said their union already received an AJ in 2006, but nothing happened on their demand for the regularization of the contractual workers of the company.
“We would only go back to work if the company will recognize us as regular workers and we have our CBA,” Gumanoy said.
After the incident, the union intends to file cases of human rights violations and a complaint with the International Labour Organization (ILO).
Davao Today tried to get DOLE Region 11’s comment on the violent dispersal on ComVal, but it has yet to issue a statement as of posting. Also, Compostela LGU has yet to issue an official statement about the bloody dispersal incident.(davaotoday.com)