The Hacienda Luisita strike, which paved the way for the revocation of the stock distribution option in the hacienda, is set to end this week. But both the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU) and United Luisita Workers’ Union (ULWU) deem the strike as but “one chapter in the struggle of the hacienda people”.
By Abner Bolos
An air of restrained jubilation among the Hacienda workers present filled the room as United Luisita Workers’ Union [ULWU] president Rene Galang read the minutes stipulating the final agreements entered into by management and union. Galang and the workers were inside a small room at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) building in Quezon City where the final stages of the negotiations were held.
All the difficult items in the agenda have been agreed upon by both panels except the manner of payment of the financial assistance for the crop production of farm workers. As soon as both parties approve the agreements contained in the minutes, the one-year old strike in Hacienda Luisita is all but settled. The signing of the memorandum of agreement (MOA) will then seal the agreements and formally end the strike.
The schedule of payment of wages and benefits proved to be the most ticklish part. The union wanted all wages and benefits paid before the MOA is signed. Ernesto Teopaco, the negotiator for management, maintained that the MOA must first be signed before payment.
The proposal of union counsel Nenita Mahinay for management to pay the wages and benefits simultaneous with the signing of the MOA broke the impasse.
Thus, the strike in the sugar plantation owned by the family of former president Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino, reputed to be the most controversial in the nation’s history, is about to end. The negotiations held, at the UCCP, ended around 6 p.m. of Dec. 5.
The Central Azucarera De Tarlac Labor Union [CATLU] has earlier settled its demands with management. But CATLU and ULWU agreed that a settlement will have to be reached for both unions before the strike will be lifted.
After a brief break, CATLU officers entered the room and, three hours later, finalized its agreements with management.
In a joint statement issued by ULWU and CATLU dated Dec. 6, the workers claimed the strike as a “historic victory.”
The terms of the agreement include:
1. All the 34 dismissed union officers of CATLU and 52 of the remaining retrenched union officers and members of ULWU will go back to work. There were 35 CATLU officers who were dismissed including CATLU president Ricardo Ramos who was murdered last Oct. 25. Thirty-seven retrenched seasonal workers belonging to ULWU will go back to work as seasonal workers. The 15 retrenched permanent workers of ULWU will receive full separation benefits and will be rehired as seasonal workers.
CATLU and ULWU will remain as the bargaining agents of the mill and farm workers respectively. A new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) for CATLU will be signed on Dec. 8 and the new CBA for ULWU will be forthcoming as plantation operations normalize. Nineteen 19 ULWU officers will receive regular pay while doing full-time union work.
2. A financial package worth about P21 million will be given to more than 700 CATLU members. This includes a daily wage increase of P15 retroactive from July 1, 2004, a one-time signing bonus of P13, 000 as well as this year’s Christmas bonus and other benefits. ULWU will receive about P8.2 million in unpaid wages and benefits for the more than 5,000 seasonal and permanent workers.
3. ULWU is given the right to harvest and get the proceeds from the remaining sugar cane crop worth about P30 million. In addition, ULWU chapters in all the 10 barangays (villages) comprising the hacienda will receive P200,000 each as financial assistance for crop production.
4. The plantation workers will retain all their rights as stockholders of the corporation.
On Dec. 8, the workers will be paid and the MOA will be signed at the picket line in Gate 1. The barricades will then be lifted.
Galang told Bulatlat that the strike is but a chapter in the struggle of the people of Hacienda Luisita.
“The strike paved the way for the revocation of the stock distribution option [SDO] in the hacienda. We will continue to cultivate the land and work for its eventual transfer to the hacienda people,” Galang said. (Bulatlat.com)