This story was taken from Bulatlat, the Philippines's alternative weekly newsmagazine (
Vol. VI, No. 35, Oct. 8-14, 2006



CBA Nego in DOLE-Phil Turning Sour

A fully owned subsidiary of US multinational Dole Food Company, DOLE Philippines Inc. (Dolefil), accounts for the bulk of Dole Food Company's total pineapple output. But, said the union, their wages can’t even compare with the salary levels of younger workers in some electronic companies like Philips, despite their having worked in Dolefil for more than two decades. Worse, management is accusing workers of being terrorists and has even used armed men to harass them.


Asking for slightly better wages and launching legal and peaceful mass actions to advance it are now “terror” tactics. What’s more, aligning with militant Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement) is now considered tantamount to being a communist which, although supposedly legal in the Philippines, renders the accused persons open to rights violations.

This is the frightening reality confronting the 5,280-member union of hourly rank-and-file workers in Dole Philippines at Polomolok, South Cotabato, as well as their fellow KMU-affiliated unions in Region XII.

Dolefil workers have been negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with the management since April this year. But so far, the situation they’re in has compelled members to describe it as akin to Martial Law years. They say that compared to their past CBA negotiations “harassments now are much, much worse.”

In the course of their months-long negotiations (that is yet to end this week, with the Department of Labor and Employment’s assumption of jurisdiction) the Dolefil management has repeatedly downscaled its already low wage increase proposal and has even wrested away some hard-won benefits of the union in past CBA’s. As if reduced wage increases and benefits are not yet enough, it is even slapping with illegal suspension at least two thousand of its workers and has illegally dismissed at least two, in retaliation for actively taking part in the struggle for a good CBA.

Much ado about KMU

Amado Kadena (Asosasyon sa mga Mamumuo sa Dolefil alang sa Kalingkawasan ug Demokrasya sa Nasud or Association of Workers of Dolefil or Association of Workers of Dolefil for Freedom and Democracy), the Dolefil workers’ union, is affiliated with NAFLU-KMU,  (National Federation of Labor Unions - Kilusang Mayo Uno). Since 2001, Amado Kadena has in two separate certification elections resoundingly decided to align itself with “genuine, militant, nationalist and anti-imperialist” unions.

But it has outraged the management of the world’s biggest integrated pineapple plantation, cannery and packaging complex. (Dolefil operates on a 14,000-hectare area in South Cotabato. It has its own can manufacturing plant, corrugated box manufacturing plant, and an international shipping and wharf facility.) It is the biggest employer in Region XII, supplying most of Dole’s pineapple exports and source of profits. Dole Philippines’ profitability is such that it has enabled its foreign owners to further expand and operate new plantations in Mindanao.

Since the union first aligned formally with NAFLU-KMU in 2001, the Dolefil management has been hell-bent on crushing their union. It is using yellow unions and anti-communist organizations such as ANAD and ALSA-MASA to discredit the militant union. It is urging the union officers to disaffiliate and be “independent.” While failing to do so, the management is trying to crush the union by orchestrating an all-out effort, backed by most of the local government, business community, military and radio, to force Amado Kadena to swallow a substandard CBA.

“Resorting to violence is nothing new to Dolefil especially during CBA negotiations,” said Amado Kadena’s education committee. In July 2001 in the course of their CBA negotiations, two M79 grenades were lobbed at the KMU office in Polomolok. In this year’s CBA negotiations, “Dolefil hired military intelligence agents posted as workers, aside from workers given special assignments as intelligence agents,” said Amado Kadena’s research committee.

Armed Harassments

At least twenty men wearing camouflage pants, hiding their faces in bonnets, and armed with high-powered rifles such as M16’s, arrived in the dead of night last month, parked their six by six truck in front of the Amado Kadena office, deployed some men to train their guns at the union office and its guard while the others tore down and burned the streamers. They were heard mouthing expletives and threatened to kill whoever would come out of the Amado Kadena Union office to stop them.

The burning spree occurred following days of persistent efforts of members of Amado Kadena-NAFLU-KMU to hang their streamers after these were repeatedly removed at night by people believed to be paid by the management.

Since June this year while CBA negotiations were still ongoing, workers also complained of placards and graffiti appearing in the streets of Polomolok linking KMU with the CPP-NPA.

After the union officers told Dolefil management that the latter will be held responsible if the unionists were murdered as a result of red-baiting, signatories such as ANAD and ALSA-MASA began appearing in the red-baiting placards. Since then, leaflets demonizing the KMU as a “terrorist organization” also began to circulate more heavily in Dolefil and South Cotabato. 

Pressure bears strongly against the union. Labor cooperatives supplying contractual workers to Dolefil and Billy Baitus, a Polomolok municipal councilor, led anti-KMU and anti-strike caravans. Amado Kadena’s research committee revealed that many contractual workers were forced to join these caravans as they were threatened of losing their job contracts if they failed to do so.

In Dolefil itself, the management has upped its campaign against Amado Kadena; it holds frequent meetings to drum into the workers’ heads that the KMU is a terrorist organization, a saboteur, etc.

Workers interviewed by Bulatlat said the Dolefil management is staging scenes of sabotage and blaming it on the union even if they can’t (or won’t) identify the true culprits For instance, they would unload chunks of steel into pineapple canners and cry that it’s the KMU’s fault.

Led by British Kevin Davis, managing director and executive vice-president, the Dolefil management appears bent in attacking the workers further. According to the workers, Davis keeps telling them: “The more you go against me the more I get mad!”

At the early phase of CBA negotiations this year, the Dolefil management has effectively crippled the union’s minimart after stopping the management practice of automatically deducting from the workers’ salaries their payable account to the minimart. Now, the management is trying to bypass the union’s role in distributing rice, a hard-won gain from past CBA, by forcing the workers to sign a waiver and get it instead “as cash directly” from the management.

Plunging wages, rising profit

A fully owned subsidiary of US multinational Dole Food Company, Dolefil accounts for the bulk of Dole Food Company's total pineapple output. It claims that it is “committed to provide employees with a decent income and opportunities to grow professionally with a year round training and development program.” But Amado Kadena’s experiences say otherwise.

Adds the unions’s research committee, the terms corporate social responsibility and social accountability, trumpeted loudly in Dolefil’s ISO certification, are simply “euphemisms for brazen attacks on workers’ trade union rights.”

The majority of Dolefil’s almost 15,000 workforce are contractual workers who get lower than the region’s prescribed minimum wage. Among the regular and unionized workers, the majority gets only P200 to P400 ($3.99 - $4.99 at an exchange rate of $1=P50.01) per day. Only those who’ve been with the company for twenty to thirty years are receiving more than P500 ($9.99) per day.

“Their wages can’t even compare with the salary levels of younger workers in some electronic companies like Philips, despite their having worked in Dolefil for more than two decades,” said Tony Pascual, NAFLU-KMU’s general secretary.

And yet, the millions of tons of pineapples produced, canned and shipped annually by Dolefil workers had brought billions of profits to the US multinational company, said Tony Pascual. The decision and capability to build more plantations in Mindanao are just some of its proofs, he adds.

But the way Dolefil’s managing director, Kevin Davis, has been pummeling the workers with threats, illegal suspensions and even dismissals and outright coercion, it looks like Dolefil has a radically different interpretation of its promised “decent income” to employees. 

As of this writing Dolefil still has to come up with an improved offer of its 2.25 percent wage increase proposal, a figure that did not even come close to the region’s seven percent inflation rate. According to Amado Kadena’s research committee, the measly increase also points to a miserable trend for the workers not only in Dolefil, which has witnessed a steadily plunging rates of wage increases since 2004, but also for workers in the entire region. Bulatlat


© 2006 Bulatlat  Alipato Media Center

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