Labor inspection finds SIDC the true employer of feedmill workers on strike

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Striking feedmill workers put one of at least five streamers where SIDC’s newly installed CCTV cameras could see it in Batangas. (Photo grabbed from union’s website, July 19, 2016)

“DCMM agency does not exercise control over the performance of the work of the said employees. Neither does it own the products and the equipment used in production.”

By MARYA SALAMAT
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – The demand for reinstatement and regularization by the striking feedmill workers in Soro Soro Ibaba Development Cooperative (SIDC), the country’s biggest agri-based cooperative, gained ground yesterday after the Labor Department issued the Notice of Result of Inspection it conducted on DCMM labor agency. The latter claims to employ the SIDC workers; the SIDC has previously issued a statement saying the workers are not theirs but of this agency.

But based on the labor inspectors’ findings, the DCMM agency does not exercise control over the performance of the work of the said employees. Under the country’s current labor laws and policies, it means DCMM is not their employer but rather, the one who has been supervising them, and that is SIDC.

Neither did the DCMM own the products and the equipment used in production, the striking workers said in their social networking site. These are additional proofs that DCMM cannot be their true employer.

Under the DO 18-A, the country’s policy on contractualization, it means DCMM is merely supplying labor to SIDC. Labor-only contracting is banned and illegal in the country.

Because instances like this continue to be reported, this type of contractualization along with other ways of separating workers from their actual employers, has been condemned many times by workers’ groups. KMU’s Bong Labog described it as one of the employers’ “inventions” to escape responsibility to their workers and cut labor cost to maximize profits, at the expense of the workers.

DCMM also reportedly failed to give supporting documents regarding its legal status as labor agency.

Still on strike, SIDC workers defending rights and parrying attacks

SIDC’s long-time CEO, Rico Geron, is now an agri-based partylist representative in Congress. He has been replaced by Mr Eddie Dimaano as the 17th Congress is about to open.

“SIDC has been using its influence to force the workers to abandon their picket and their demands,” Martin Ramos, president of labor association Samahan ng Manggagawa sa SIDC – LIGA, told Bulatlat.

The union accused SIDC of “buying a full package of instant TRO from Judge Ruben Galvez, including a prayer for Preliminary Injunction to be followed by Permanent Injunction.”

A temporary restraining order (TRO) for 72 hours had been issued on the picketline by the Batangas City Regional Trial Court Executive Judge Ruben Galvez last July 14.

The TRO was swiftly denounced by regional labor center Pamantik and national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno. They said the court order is anomalous.

As the TRO expired yesterday, workers had to face down demolition teams that included bulldozers and a buckhoe, firetrucks, and teams of armed policemen. It also showed up last July 14, together with a sheriff who refused to identify himself to the strikers.

Marlon Ramos said they and their supporters and families resisted the demolition and stayed their ground.

But they are being harassed in other ways. He said their mobile address team roaming Batangas City to inform the public of their struggle was tailed and harassed on June 18 by a SIDC security and a vehicle.

“Guards and goons of SIDC harassed the feedmill workers conducting a community hop with youth supporters and a church pastor. The guards banged on the worker’s jeep and they tried to seize the person speaking to address the public. When they failed, they chased and tried to ram the back of the (workers’) jeep,” the Samahan ng Manggagawa sa SIDC posted in its social media account yesterday. They took short videos of the harassment and posted it also on social media.
Later, the workers said their social media was suddenly “blocked.”

To avoid all these conflicts, they urged SIDC to bring the dispute to its conclusion and respond to their demands for regularization and return to work, for starters.

Also, in response to SIDC’s installation of at least five CCTV cameras near the picketline, the workers put up streamers bearing all their five demands: regularization, return to work, payment and remittance of benefits, return of dubious fees, and recognition of their labor association Samahan ng Manggagawa sa SIDC – LIGA (SM-SIDC-LIGA).

Still against contractualization, workers battle efforts to divide them

Martin Ramos, 36, started working for SIDC nine years ago at the age of 18. He said most of the SIDC workers in the feedmill have spent their youth hauling heavy sackloads of feed at very low pay, lower than their agreed piece-rate of P1.50 per sack hauled, and without personal protective equipment, medical aid or insurance.

Aside from the threats while on picket, most of the strikers are breadwinners and they struggle to continue supporting their families.

Asked what they eat now, Ramos said they survive on talbos ng gabi, talbos ng malunggay (taro or malunggay shoots). “Kung ano pwede kainin, basta mailaban karapatan namin,” (Whatever is available for food, as long as we can fight for our rights,” he said.

feedmill workers on strike
“Hindi kailanman gumawa ng hakbang ang SIDC upang pangalagaan at kilalanin ang aming papel sa kanilang pagkuha ng yaman”. (SIDC never took a step to protect our welfare nor recognize our role in their wealth-generation.) – Marvin Ramos, president of SIDC laborers’ association, July 18, 2016

The workers explained they were forced to launch the strike because they have no more recourse left. They cannot accept that a fellow worker who questioned the “dubious fees” being withheld from their wages would just suddenly be terminated.

Before holding a strike, they first conducted a picket protest at the gates of SIDC last month. They held talks with SIDC with the help of local government, but any positive agreement they had here were negated by succeeding actions of SIDC and DCMM agency, prompting the workers’ strike.

Ramos said they have also been fed up with the fact that their wellbeing is always at risk on the job, but despite the profits and the expansion it brought to SIDC, they themselves are not progressing in life. On the contrary, the workers computed that they are being shortchanged by the labor agency “contracted” by SIDC.

The other day, Ramos said he received summons to go to the DOLE office in Lipa City, Batangas, to meet with Agap Partylist Rep. Geron.

“But Geron wanted me to go alone,” Ramos said. He expressed hopes he can be with at least some of the union leaders when they talk to start resolving the contractualization problem in SIDC. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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