Raise labor standards in tuna industry

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/21 October) — The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Region 12 has stepped up its interventions to facilitate the tuna industry players’ compliance with international labor standards.

Ofelia Domingo, DOLE Region 12 director, said Wednesday they have been closely monitoring the operations of local tuna companies to ensure that they properly adhere to the general labor standards and related regulations.

She said this move is in line with the ongoing assessment by the European Union (EU) on the compliance of tuna companies based in the city to the standards of its Generalized System of Preferences Plus (GSP+).

Representatives from the EU delegation to the Philippines earlier inspected several local tuna companies as part of the GSP+ assessment, she said.

“We’re mainly assisting the tuna industry in complying with the labor-related standards that were set under the GSP+,” Domingo said.

The EU parliament included the Philippines in December last year in its GSP+, which grants zero duty or tariff to over 6,000 eligible exports from the country to its member-states.

The GSP+ status covered processed and canned-tuna products caught by 100-percent Philippine-registered vessels.

During the inspection, Domingo said they hosted a roundtable discussion to tackle issues and concerns regarding the industry’s compliance with GSP+ standards.

She said the gathering was joined by EU-GSP+ representatives, civil society organizations and industry players.

Among the issues tackled were the labor dispute between union workers and the management of tuna firm Citra Mina, labor contractualization, and the impending implementation of the proposed rules and regulations governing the working and living conditions in the fishing industry.

Domingo said the EU delegation led by its GSP unit’s deputy head, Nikos Zaimis, stressed the need for continuing dialogues to address the pending labor issues within the industry.

“That’s what we’ve been doing right with the Citra Mina issue. There are ongoing talks under our single-entry approach to resolve the matter,” she said.

DOLE is currently crafting a proposed joint department order to lay down the government’s labor-related policies, programs and other interventions concerning fishing companies.

Domingo said the joint department order specifically sets the “rules and regulations governing the employment and working conditions of fishers employed in fishing vessels engaged in commercial fishing operation.”

“It aims to harmonize laws and regulations in giving decent work to fishermen and ease doing business with the fishing industry,” she said.

The city, which is home to six of the country’s tuna canneries, is dubbed the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines.”

The industry generates annual export receipts of around US$ 350 million and directly employs about 20,000 workers. (MindaNews)