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Unrest in pineapple and banana workers

Japanese execs urged to stop unlawful layoffs at Dole Philippines, pineapple workers calls for reinstatement

By Associated Labor Unions
October 16, 2020

QUEZON CITY – Hundreds of unlawfully laid off pineapple and banana workers are calling for their reinstatement and thousands more are appealing to Japanese top executives to stop the illegal retrenchments of Dole Philippines Inc. employees in Polomolok, South Cotabato.

The Dole Philippines was acquired by Japanese firm Itochu Corporation from Dole Food Inc. in 2013.

The plant-level unrest was started by an on the spot termination on September 15 of 478 regular employees without just and authorized cause and amid the continuing hiring of more contractual workers from manpower cooperatives.

This ruthless retrenchment by Dole in a monocrop economy such as in Polomolok is both untimely and unconscionable. Management fully knows that there are no new jobs waiting for retrenched workers once they are terminated. The upstream and downstream economies of towns and cities built around plantation operations are very vulnerable to corporate attempts to bring down wages and to artificially bring down labor rights.

The effect of pandemic is negligible and cannot be used by Dole Philippines Inc. to justify the lay-offs given the resilience of its strong export markets. It has deep corporate pockets and the current troubles attributable to the pandemic are a mere blip. The termination is doubly painful to severed workers to lose their livelihood as the country's economy sink deeper into recession caused by the pandemic lockdowns.

In seeking redress, sacked employees sought the help of the labor federation Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) and asked it to represent them in the government mediation and conciliation mechanism in the hope that they be reinstated back to work, said Sofriano Mataro, ALU Regional Vice President for Southern Mindanao Region.

Other disenfranchised employees fear they might suffer the fate of retrenched co-employees have asked the help of the labor federation to convey their appeal to Itochu Corporation top executives to stop any further unlawful lay off of regular workers in Polomolok.

Workers strongly believes the Dole Philippines middle executives are disempowering the right of more than 6,000 regular employees to organize a union and collectively bargain for better wages and benefits by the end of the year and undermine the legal procedure by replacing them with non-regular contractual workers without the knowledge and the consent of the top management.

Dole Philippines’ management continues to replace regular workers it has retrenched and will be retrenching with contractuals, clearly establishing that they are just bidding down wages, eroding constitutionally protected workers rights, and maximizing profits in service of corporate greed. Targetting 32 core union leaders for retrenchment reveals that they are really engaged in union-busting.

"The relative Dole Philippines' labor-management shared industrial peace was broken by these unlawful termination and disrespect to the workers right to legally organize a union and negotiate for better wages and benefits. While employees still have hope with top management officials, we urge the Dole top executives to respond and intervene by ordering a stop to the unlawful termination, reinstate illegally laid off employees and ensure the workers' right to form a union and collectively bargain before the situation become worse, " Mataro said.

Dole Philippines profited immensely from our workers here. It is also time for them to restrain greed in the name of plain decency, he added.

With almost 20,000 plantation and cannery workers during peak operations, Dole Philippines Inc. is the biggest producer and marketer of renowned pineapple and banana fresh fruits, juices and by-products to the U.S, Middle East, Japan, China, Korea, Australia and New Zealand through its 16,000 hectares of pineapple and banana plantations and canneries located in South Cotabato.

It is a giant multinational which is not losing money since the agricultural export market remains vibrant. Over the last 15 years Dole Philippines' corporate earnings have been highly profitable, in no short measure, due to the labor productivity of its workers.

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