22 February 2011
Labor NGO Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, Inc. (EILER) expressed alarm over food giant Dole Philippines’ brazen harassment of a militant union amid the ongoing union election today as the company has brought in truckloads of armed men in the workplace.
The Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, an NGO formed during the Marcos years, said the current highly militarized situation of Dole Philippines in South Cotabato “is reminiscent of the martial-law type repression which barred democratic activities of unions then.”
“It’s ironic that as we commemorate the 25th year of the EDSA uprising this week, fear and repression hound agricultural workers at Dole Philippines as they struggle to exercise their democratic right to participate in the union elections. “We lament the fact that 25 years since the EDSA People Power, unions are still not regarded as part of the democratic institutions in our society.” said EILER executive director Anna Leah Escresa.
“We also received reports that the company, through its dummy union, is offering workers P1,000 each on the condition that they will boycott the elections today. This is clearly meant to sabotage a democratic exercise. We condemn such acts of Dole Philippines and the military,” she added.
Based on reports from Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) who is part of an independent monitoring team for the union elections, members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) 27th Infantry Battalion have been doing rounds near the polling place and even visiting homes of workers as 6×6 military trucks roam near the plantation in Polomolok, South Cotabato.
“We call on the attention of commander-in-chief and President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to prove his commitment to democracy and free elections by ordering the pullout of soldiers from Dole Philippines,” Escresa said.
Based on the reports, it is clear that Dole Philippines’ militaristic repression is aimed at Amado-Kadena-NAFLU-KMU, the militant union which has been fighting against contractualization, low wages and other anti-worker schemes, the group said.
In a research study it conducted in 2008, EILER found out that the pineapple giant discourages workers from joining the unions, implements contractualization, employs child laborers and exposes them to chemical pollution and occupational hazards. Communities around the Dole Philippines cannery and plantations also suffer from serious health problems due to pesticide exposure.
Anna Leah Escresa
EILER executive director