Pineapple giant risks losing social accountability certification

Jun. 20, 2010

SOUTH COTABATO — Pineapple giant, Dole Foods Inc. risks losing its social accountability (SA) certification, following Dole Philippines (Dolefil)’s  ‘non-conformity’ with SA 8000 requirements on freedom of association and collective bargaining rights of its workers in Polomolok as revealed in the recent audit report, June 4, of Societe Generalle de Surveillance (SGS).

In the SA8000 audit report provided by SGS to the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), an international non-government organization (NGO) and one of the complainants, the former cited the Dolefil management for violating the workers’ right to freedom of association by discriminating against Amado Kadena (AK-Naflu-KMU) — the duly-certified and elected union of workers at Dolefil — while favouring another union, UR-Dole, and assisting the latter to “lodge harassing litigation against AK-NAFLU-KMU leadership.”

The SGS audit was conducted last March 23-27 this year.

Clear Proof of Violations

The SGS report underscored that Dolefil management malignly favoured and recognized UR-Dole and evaded any action to resolve problems with AK-Naflu-KMU.  Under management prodding, UR-Dole launched a union special general meeting which virtually and illegally deposed the AK-Naflu-KMU leadership. Even the union dues were siphoned-off and funnelled to UR-Dole.

In addition, the audit report noted the company’s discriminatory actions by “providing financial assistance to the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) anti-KMU ‘education’ programs…to spread propaganda against [the] chosen representatives [of the workers].”

The auditors also underlined that the company paid its workers a salary equivalent to three days’ work just to attend the AFP `education forum’ with awareness that this forum was meant to malign the democratically elected union and with the objective of replacing it with more company compliant union.

Other violations cited included aspects on health and safety, violations in the control of suppliers and the management’s failure to disclose the number of labor cooperative workers that Dolefil employs.

Reconfirm Violations

In relation with the audit report confirming Dolefil’s violations, SGS issued corrective action requests (CARs) to end the violations. The Dolefil management can reply to these within 90 days. Otherwise, the company’s SA8000 certification will be revoked.

“Revoking SA certification will reconfirm that Dole Foods is a human rights violator both nationally and globally, an argument that has long been brought forward not only by the union but local and international organizations like the Washington-based International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF). This too, will logically affect Dole Foods’ image on the community, its customers, shareholders and product consumers who are now opting for products made by companies that are socially responsible or comply with human rights standards,” says Daisy Arago, executive director of labour rights organization, CTUHR.

Arago added that the withdrawal of SA 8000 on account of persistent violations of workers rights in its plantation and canning factory in South Cotabato (Mindanao) demonstrates the company’s wanton abandonment of its social responsibility to the Filipino people.

What is SA 8000?

SA8000 is an internationally-accepted set of social standards developed by SA International (SAI) used to measure the performance and responsibility of employers — mostly multinational and transnational companies. It is based on the principles of international human rights norms as described in International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It measures the performance of companies in eight key areas: child labour, forced labour, health and safety, free association and collective bargaining, discrimination, disciplinary practices, working hours and compensation. It also provides for a social accountability management system to demonstrate a company’s ongoing conformance with the standard.

SA 8000 Certification enables companies to enjoy tremendous competitive advantage over others, to enhance its brand reputation, and increase its employees’ retention and productivity.

International business community recognizes the value of SA 8000 certification. Without SA 8000 certification, the company would never seem to live up to those standards that the world expects of it and will never attract the sort of clientele that it has envisaged. The certification is very precious to have in place and all those enterprises that think of taking their quality of services to the next level ought to earn this certification. Losing an SA certification that a company earned after years of business will only project the enterprise in a bad light and it will not make them look very enterprising and exuberant.#

For reference:

Daisy Arago, Executive Director CTUHR
Mobile number: 0910-380-1897

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