By GERALD LEIGH LAQUINON
DISMAYED El Nino-affected plantation workers of Dole-Stanfilco in Bukidnon marched in protest yesterday after a dialogue on Thursday failed.
The negotiation between some 300 banana plantation workers under Organisasyon sa Yanong Obrerong Nagkahiusa (Ogyon) and multinational Dole-Stanfilco in Dangcagan town reached a stalemate, said June Antiga, president of Ogyon.
Antiga said the workers demanded permanent work and subsidies. They also demanded to receive leave benefits, the withdrawal of their P10,000-cash bond deposits from their agency, and the end of contractualization.
The march protest in Valencia City, Bukidnon was staged in time for Labor Day.
“Our company was so adamant in its stance against our demands while the Dole and the local government did not appear and seem to care at all,” said Antiga.
Since January, Dole-Stanfilco has imposed a three-day work week especially among contractual workers in its Dangcagan plantation because most of its banana plants died due to drought.
“Today, there is almost no work for us, agricultural workers,” he lamented.
Of more than 400 laborers employed by Dole in the area, only 100 are regular workers. Due to the decreased work days, most of them sought odd jobs to support their families during this crisis.
Antiga decried how their company employs workers through Asiapro, saying that agency or “cooperative” hiring perpetuates contractualization in vast agricultural plantations in Mindanao.
Danilo Ramos, secretary general of the Unyon nga mga Mangagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), said that while all the country’s presidential candidates vowed to end contractualization in the last leg of “Pilipinas Debates,” concrete bills are still pending in Congress.
House Bill 5140 or “An Act Prohibiting Contractualization And Promoting Regular Employment” was filed by Anakpawis and Rep. Neri Colmenares as early as October 2014.
Ramos said Dole-Stanfilco still earns billions of pesos in profits despite the decrease in the production volume in the fresh food business caused by the drought.
Dole Stanfilco registered a net profit of P2.243 billion from April to December 2015.
“There is no reason to let workers bear the brunt of ‘hulaw,’ and face this grave calamity without support from its employers or the government. They must not run from its responsibility to the workers who have long been exploited by this company,” said Ramos.
Ramos also called on the government to ensure that agricultural workers would still be provided wages and benefits by employers even during this drought period.
Farm workers led by Ugyon-UMA are among the five thousand drought-affected villagers who marched to the Bukidnon capitol in Malaybalay City earlier this month to demand immediate food relief.