Dole workers reject mgt’s new offer; strke to begin anytime

At least 76 percent of the union workers voted to throw out the company’s “improved offer” of an average 3.5 percent wage increase for the next three years and a package of economic and non-economic benefits.

The junking of the proposal practically shut down the company’s bid to arrange a final deal with the union before the end of the seven-day strike ban that fell on midnight Thursday.

“Right now, it’s over. We will launch a strike anytime,” union secretary Oscar Serohijos told reporters here Friday morning.

Members of the Asosasyon sa mga Mamumuo sa Dole Alang sa Kalinaw ug Demokratikong Nasud or Amado-Kadena, which is under the National Federation of Labor Unions- Kilusang Mayo Uno (NFLU-KMU), held a referendum on Thursday afternoon after Dolefil management proposed another settlement package.

A report from the Department of Labor and Employment’s National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB), which supervised the referendum, showed that 2,562 union members voted against the management’s offer while only 774 voted in its favor.

Four members abstained, 19 ballots were declared spoiled, nine invalid, two were missing and 191 were contested. The union listed its membership at 4,766 or 90.50 percent of Dolefil’s 5,265 rank and file workers.

Serohijos, who sits in the union’s four-man negotiating team, said the union has no other choice but to reject management’s “improved offer” as it hardly showed any improvement based on the proposals it presented during the failed negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

He said the union’s majority was not satisfied with the new offer, especially the provisions on the wage increase that is reportedly one of the lowest in recent years.

Serohijos said the company’s rank and file workers, who are currently receiving an average daily pay of P373.16 per day or 9,754 a month, last received a wage hike two years ago at a rate of seven percent.

“We’re not asking for the moon but just enough for us to survive the present crisis,” he said.

The company’s “improved offer” covers: a three percent or P11 wage increase on the first year, 3.5 percent or P13 on the second year and four percent or P15 on the third year; a P430 monthly rice allowance for three years; a lump sum or signing bonus of P4,000 per worker on the first year and P1,000 on the second and third year; and, an education and research fund (ERF) of P500,000 for the union on the first year and P150,000 in the succeeding years.

Based on NCMB’s records, union members presently receive a monthly rice allowance of P390, annual family education assistance of P1,500, daily cost of living allowance (COLA) of P6, maternity benefit assistance of P3,750 and a  range of medical benefits.

The members received a signing bonus of P8,000 while the union received an education and research fund (ERF) of P800,000.

During the negotiations for the new CBA, which started in April, the union proposed a daily wage increase of P57.75 or 16.8 percent, 30 kilograms worth of monthly rice allowance, P21,000 signing bonus, COLA of P25, family education assistance of P2,500 and ERF of P1 million.

However, the company stood pat on a 2.25 percent wage hike, a one-time P3,500 signing bonus, P400 rice allowance and P300,000 for ERF.

The deadlock in the CBA negotiations prompted the union to file a notice of strike with the NCMB on August 15. They also cited as reason the alleged unfair labor practice for union busting committed by the company.

On the same day, Dolefil filed a counter notice of lockout citing as reasons, the CBA deadlock and supposed unfair labor practice for negotiating in bad faith committed by the union.       

The strike move was eventually ratified by union members in a referendum on August 27. But before a union could stage a strike, the government mandates a 30-day cooling off period from the filing of the strike notice and a succeeding seven-day strike ban.

In the case of the union, the cooling off period ended on Sept. 15 and the strike ban ended Thursday.

Dolefil general manager Kevin Davis, the only official authorized by the company to issue statements on the matter, has yet give the company’s side regarding the latest development.

Davis earlier hinted that the company may consider pulling out from the area should the workers push through with their strike.       

Lawyer Tom Viboso, NCMB Region 12 director, said he’s still hoping that a settlement would be agreed by both parties although he did not rule out the union’s declaration to finally stage a strike as it already completed the procedures set by the law.

“On our part, we already exhausted all the remedies provided for in the labor code for the mediation process,” he told MindaNews in telephone interview.

Viboso said they already elevated the case to the Department of  Labor and Employment (DOLE) central office and that the next moves would now depend on Labor Secretary Arturo Brion’s decisions.

Polomolok Mayor Isidro Lumayag said he remains hopeful that the two parties would reach a “win-win” solution in the coming days.

“I don’t think the strike will push through. It will not happen and Dolefil will definitely stay here,” the mayor said.

Lumayag said he was scheduled to meet with union leaders this afternoon and later sit down in a dinner meeting with Dolefil officials.

“Hopefully we can arrange something positive within a week,” he added. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)