Workers in Filipinas Palm Oil Industries launched a strike after months of negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement hit a deadlock, despite an assumption of jurisdiction order from the labor department. A first strike in defiance of AJ under the Aquino administration.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — In the Philippines’ largest palm oil plantation and milling plant, workers have been forced to launch a strike since two days ago in protest of a “wage freeze” and anti-strike AJ or assumption of jurisdiction.
(Photo by Marya Salamat / bulatlat.com)
Like in the case of workers in Philippine Air Lines, the workers in Filipinas Palm Oil Industries, Inc (FPII) decided to go on strike after negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with their company hit a deadlock. Their protest has also been met with an assumption of jurisdiction (AJ) order issued by the labor department in response to a company request as early as two months ago, when the deadlock in the negotiations has prompted the union to file for a notice of strike.
FPII, formerly NDC-Guthrie, is a joint venture of a Malaysian company and Filipino billionaire Dennis T. Villareal, who is also FPII’s president and chief operating officer. Malaysia is the world’s largest producer and exporter of palm oil. In the Philippines, FPII has the largest plantation and milling capacity for palm oil. Its plantation covers no less than 8,000 hectares in Agusan del Sur, or more than four times the size of other palm oil plantations in the area. Its milling capacity in Agusan alone is also more than twice as big as other palm oil milling plants in the area. On top of that FPII also has another milling plant in Metro Manila.
FPII employs 1,000 workers, but only 400 have regular status. The rest are either contractual or casual workers who are paid lower than the prescribed minimum wages in the region, the workers union in FPII said.
Members of NAFLU-KMU staged a picket protestin front of FPPI headquarters in Makati City last Oct 6. (Photo by Marya / bulatlat.com)
In its milling plant in Libis in Metro Manila, workers are also complaining of fruitless CBA negotiations with the company. Betsy Abelong, treasurer of Drug & Food Workers Alliance (DFA), said the union of workers in FPII’s Libis plant, which has been in existence for 20 years, complained of a CBA deadlock. The workers also fear for their jobs as news that a bigger, more modern plant in Agusan is being completed by the FPII.
FPII has continuously posted profits, according to financial statements it filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The trend appears to continue to be rosy because the demand for palm oil continues to grow domestically and internationally, said Tony Pascual, secretary-general of NAFLU.
Palm oil is used as an ingredient in cooking oil, confectionery, ice cream, soap, cosmetics and many other food and chemicals. All parts of the palm plant from its fruits to its skin and bark yield profits for its owners, the workers said. They added that the FPII has the capacity to grant the workers’ demands, but refuses to do so out of greed.
Gov’t Lubricating the Greed of Big Corporations
Members of National Federation of Labor Unions (NAFLU) affiliated with the KMU (May First Movement) surprised the varied security forces in the Philippine’s central business district with a picket protest on Oct 6 in front of FPII’s headquarters in Makati City. “This is the first time we saw something like this in this street,” a building security guard told Bulatlat. NAFLU members and officers held a “sympathy picket” for nearly two hours amid an increasing number of security personnel and police watching the picket.