DAVAO CITY – Banana workers from different Sumifru packing plants in Compostela Valley stage a rally to support their colleagues in the company’s cold storage facility who mounted a protest over the fruit giant’s refusal to enter into a new collective bargaining agreement.

Banana Industry Growers and Workers Against Sumifru (Bigwas) leaders picketed the company’s corporate headquarters at Pryce Tower here on Thursday to demand that the company sit down in collective bargaining negotiations with the union of Sumifru’s cold storage workers.

In a statement, Bigwas spokesperson Joel Cuyos said Sumifru “has been a no-show in any of the scheduled dates requested by the union AJMR Labor Union-ADLO-KMU.”

AJMRLU-ADLO-KMU is a union of the rank and file workers including forklift operators, van loaders, encoders, warehouse personnel, cold storage personnel, and drivers of Sumifru’s cold storage facility in Tibungco, Davao City.

Cuyos said Sumifru is “attacking trade unions, especially those affiliated with Kilusang Mayo Uno.”

He said Bigwas currently has nine unions in big packing plants in Compostela affiliated under National Federation of Labor Unions-KMU.

“Sumifru is launching an all-out offensive against workers who are fighting back against contractualization and union busting, schemes that the company has executed over the years, but failed to implement in full especially in Sumifru’s unionized packing plants. Now they are trying to do this to our colleagues in the cold storage and we will not allow that,” said Cuyos.

Bigwas is a cluster of banana packing plant unions formed in March when Sumifru unilaterally implemented the controversial piece-rate payment scheme that slashed workers’ wages by at least 50 percent.

On April 22, Bigwas’ successive mass actions forced the suspension of the piece rate scheme and the dispute was resolved through a compromise agreement.

During their picket, Bigwas promised Sumifru of wider and stronger support actions from the packing plants, if the company continues to take a hardline position against a new CBA negotiations.

Cuyos, who is also president of the union at Packing Plant 95 and led his union’s six-month strike years ago, said “Sumifru is a diehard union buster.”

“Without unity, the workers will lose. Our power as workers is derived from coming together in unity and helping each other . This is how we have defeated capitalists’ attempts at oppressing workers,” he said.

According to its website, Sumifru Corporation started growing bananas in Mindanao in 1970 and bases its operations in Mindanao. It also “engages in sourcing, producton, shipment and marketing of various fresh fruits, primarily the export of quality Cavendish bananas, Pineapple and Papaya”.

In 2011, Sumifru “operates more than 14,000 hectares in three different regions in Mindanao and has plans for expanding throughout Asia.” (davaotoday.com)

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