Banana workers from Davao region share woes on low wage, union busting

Dec. 01, 2015

DAVAO CITY – On the 152nd birthday of Andres Bonifacio on Monday, workers in Davao region marched here to protest low wage and attacks against their union.

Banana packing plant laborer in Compostela Valley Province for 23 years, Cerilo Labe said that he always has to file a loan to the bank to send his five children to school as his salary only covers the daily expenses with no more left to support his children’s education.

“Kaluy-an sa Dyos mabayran ra man pud nako, ang akoang asawa, sideline pud pinaagi sa pagpaninda, focus gyud ko sa akoang pamilya (By God’s mercy, I manage to pay my loan while my wife has a side-line job for extra income. I just focus on my family),” Labe said.

Labe said that as an ordinary worker who has a minimum income of P307 daily and P45 per hour in overtime, he really has to strive more to provide the needs of his family.

With the same complaint, Modona Nebres, 52, also said that her salary is not enough for the needs of her five children especially in sending them to school.

Nebres said that as a “selector”  she classifies bananas with good quality (Class A) and bananas with low quality but is still for export (Class B).

“Mao gyud na akoang source of income, sa saging, tungod kay wala nay lain nga katrabahuan, wala nay lain kaapplyan (That is really my main source of income because there is no other jobs available),” she said.

Nebres said the management of Sumifru Corporation tried to change their pay scheme from the daily rate to piece rate.  She said their salary depended on the number of boxes produced in a day.

Sumifru Corporation sources, produces and ships export quality Cavendish bananas and other fruits. The company’s main base of operation is here in Mindanao.

“Kung pila ang production, tungaan na namo, so kung gamay ang production, gamay ra kaayo amoa. Kanang daily rate, arang-arang, kulang pa gani (We divide what we produce so if the production is less, we receive less. The daily rate is better, although it really is not enough)”, she added.

Nebres said that the piece rate lasted only for two months because they conducted a strike against the management. She said it was because of the piece-rate scheme that she joined the workers’ union.

Meanwhile, Aimee Gumapong who works as an allocator at AJMR Sumifru Port Corporation in Tibungco said that as a mother,  it saddens her to see her children go hungry because her salary is not enough to provide all of her family’s needs.

She said she hopes to have better wages and that is what their union hopes to negotiate with the management. But she said the management refuses to recognize their union and to face them in the collective bargaining agreement.

“Kami, mga ultimo lang nga tawo diri sa Davao unya isip pud usa ka empleyado sa AJMR, nangandoy pud mi nga mahuman na ang struggle ug i-recognize na nila ang KMU ug atubangon na mi sa amoang CBA, karon kay nag refuse gyud sila nga mu atubang sa amoang CBA.

(We are just ordinary  people here  and as employees of AJMR, we want to achieve resolution on our case. We hope the management will recognize Kilusang Mayo Uno as our union and will finally face us in the CBA) “, she added.

Jonjie Bayana, also a worker at AJMR Sumifru Port Corporation for nine years, said that they were forced to sign a waiver revoking their affiliation with KMU and instead linked them with an independent union in the management of Sumifru.

He  said that this proposal will only cause them the lack of security in the tenure of their work. Bayana said on the last five years of their affiliation with the other federation, they do not see their “importance as workers”.

Gumapong added that for five years that she has been working in the company, they do not experience fair treatment with the workers of Sumifru.

She said they just want are fair benefits like what the regular workers of Sumifru are getting.

“Wala man mi nag ingon nga mas dako dako pa, ang amo-a lang pantayun jud tanan (We do not ask for bigger wages, what we want is they make it fair)”, she added.

Carlo Olalo, spokesperson of Kilusang Mayo Uno-Southern Mindanao Region (KMU-SMR) said they called to defend trade union because of the “repression” they experience from the capitalists and the government.

He said a union is the workers defense to press for just wage and humane working condition. But with the contractualization scheme in the country, more workers do not have job security.

“It is cheaper for the capitalists to hire only contractuals, and the government is allowing it through the Department of Labor and Employment’s Department Order 18-A,” said Olalo.

DO 18-A series of 2011, or the “Rules Implementing Articles 106 to 109 of the Labor Code, as Amended,” differentiates “legitimate” from “non-legitimate” contractors and subcontractors to identify those who are legitimate.  But for KMU, the order only legalizes contractualization.

Olalo said they also call for the P16,000 salary increase for all workers.

“We urge the government to heed workers’ demands. They always boast of a developing economy, but the workers’ condition here is deteriorating,” said Olalo.

Labe said they do not mind travelling more than four hours from Compostela Valley to Davao City “just so the public will know what we are experiencing.”

“We hope the government will listen to us,” he said. (

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