Stop trade-union repression in Dole Philippines’ plantation!

The management takeover of the workers’ union last February 13, 2010 – wherein the management-created UR Dole headed by Francis Gales, orchestrated an illegal “general assembly,” impeached the duly-elected officials of AK-NAFLU-KMU, and replaced the latter with officials from UR Dole – earned vehement protests from throughout the country and the world. Because the move is patently illegal, even the government’s Department of Labor and Employment was forced to call it as such and released a status quo order that nullifies the bogus general assembly and the “impeachment.”  Drunk with arrogance from their seeming invincibility, the Dole Philippines management refused to heed the order. In utter disrespect of the legal processes and collective bargaining agreement, the Dole Philippines management continued to recognize UR Dole and provided it with financial support by releasing to them the union membership dues.

This sham general assembly and “impeachment” was preceded and followed by campaigns of harassment and repression directed at the leaders and members of AK-NAFLU-KMU. These campaigns continue to this day. Most notable among the cases of harassment and repression is the military’s anti-union campaign and open intervention in what should be purely union affairs. Since 2007, the military in cooperation with the Dole Philippines management, has been conducting seminars vilifying AK-NAFLU-KMU as a “communist front.”  Union officers and active members are publicly accused as “enemies of the state” – a very serious accusation amidst the extra-judicial killings in the country. The AFP’s 27th Infantry Battalion has conducted a door-to-door campaign calling for disaffiliation from KMU.

For AK-NAFLU-KMU officials, threats to life and security have become a normal occurrence. Union president Jose Teruel can not count in his fingers the death threats that he has received. Workers known to be supportive of AK-NAFLU-KMU are slapped with fabricated charges and/or subjected to overly-strict discipline such as 6-15 days of suspension for even the most minor of offenses. Very recently, last January 20, union board member Roscelie Busgano was terminated on the basis of a fabricated charge of stealing. For some workers, harassment comes in the form of threats of non-renewal of their relatives’ contracts in the labor cooperative. A soft approach is also being used by the management in the form dangling early retirement packages. Since November 2010, members of AK-NAFLU-KMU have been receiving offers of a 40-day-per-year retirement package in another bid to cut back the union membership.

Desperate for national and international legitimacy for their moves, the management of Dole Philippines, the national government, and the Gales group are now pushing for a certification elections. They created and registered a new union – the Labor Employees Association of Dole Philippines (LEAD PH) – which served as a petitioner to the election. Their goal is to install the pro-management union as the sole and exclusive bargaining agent in the most “legitimate” way that they can.

LEAD PH is aggressively recuiting members among the workers. And to ensure that the workers will vote for it, and to not-too-subtly show that it is being supported by the management, those who signed for membership are being asked to sign by oath and are being threatened that if LEAD PH loses in the certification election, it will file a case against the workers who didn’t vote for the union. This is just one of the many dirty and underhanded moves of the yellow union being supported by the Dole Philippines management. 

We are calling on the government of the Philippines, headed by President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III to order the management of Dole Philippines and the Philippine military to immediately stop all these forms of harassment and repression. We support the demands of AK-NAFLU-KMU for the Dole management to reinstate the terminated workers who have been fired due to their union involvement as well as to pay back wages and benefits that were not given to them.

We are calling on the workers and peoples of the Philippines and the world to keep track of the developments in the certification elections in Dole Philippines. The DOLE has formed a monitoring committee to supposedly ensure a clean and fair certification elections. The military, however, is also a member of the monitoring committee, which casts doubt on the intention of the committee, given the military’s record of interference in union affairs and blatant support for the management-backed union UR Dole and now LEAD PH. We therefore call for a parallel monitoring body, composed of international and local organizations, to ensure an impartial and safe elections.  

We are calling on all labor unions, consumer groups, people’s organizations and advocates of trade-union and human rights to make their voices be heard on this issue. Let us condemn and oppose the labor and human rights violations being undertaken by this powerful transnational corporation, with the help of the Philippine government, against workers struggling for a living wage, job security and free exercise of trade-union rights in a far-flung province in the Philippines.