“The workers’ strike in Filipinas Palm Oil is more than justified,” said Tony Pascual, secretary-general of NAFLU. He explained that the multi-billionaire owners of FPII led by CEO Dennis Villareal have been squeezing billions of profits from its workers’ labor at the plantation and milling plant since it began operations in 1981. Yet, while the Malaysian and Filipino billionaire owners are oil-slick awash in profits, its workers are “in drought.”
Despite its continuous profitability, FPII adamantly “offered” a mere P4 ($0.092) wage increase in response to the union’s P130-150 ($2.997 to $3.458) demand for the next two years of their CBA. The union tried to meet the company halfway by slashing their demands to demonstrate flexibility and openness, Pascual said, but the company still refused to change its “cheap offer.” Instead, it kept sending “representatives”, who are without any authority to decide, to the negotiations.
A union study of FPII profitability showed that even if the company grants in full its workers’ wage hike demand and a host of other benefits, the company will remain profitable.
The management has reportedly also blocked the other economic benefits being demanded by the union, which include night differentials and hospitalization insurance.
As negotiations between the union and FPII grounded to a halt, the “Aquino government lubricates the greed of big corporations by being quick in suppressing the workers’ right to strike,” said Pascual. He was referring to the AJ order “quickly” slapped by the labor department, thus legally barring the workers from further holding protest actions especially a strike.
(Photo by Marya / bulatlat.com)
“But hunger and poverty are forcing workers to push through and assert their right to strike, their only weapon in the face of the company’s intransigence against giving them a little more share in the fruits of their labor,” Pascual said in a picket before FPII main office in Makati City.
The protesting workers criticized the similar predilection of the Aquino government, compared to its predecessor Arroyo, in quelling every strike with an AJ order. “The workers live under the same repressive conditions. The root of the strikes and disputes are still left unsolved,” Pascual said.
Within President Aquino’s first 100 days in office, the workers’ strike in the Filipinas Palm Oil Industries is a “testament to the uncurbed unrest in the labor front,” concluded Pascual, warning that “If he (Aquino) continues to stick to the same policy of wage freeze and suppression of workers’ rights, more protests would likely erupt all over the nation. (Bulatlat.com)