Strike looms at Dole Phils.; dispute now in the hands of labor secretary

“Labor Sec. Brion issued the assumption jurisdiction order around 4 p.m. Friday. Although this is a means to curtail the rights of workers to hold a strike, union leaders have initially agreed to comply with it,” Jose Teruel, Amado-Kadena chairman, said Sunday.

Teruel, however, said the labor department's order would not deter them from pushing through with the planned strike depending on the consensus of the majority.

He said both parties were given seven days to submit their respective position papers from the time they received it.

Technically, the union can go on strike because they have already submitted the results of the strike balloting to the regional mediation board office last September 13.

The law requires a seven day period from the submission of the results before a strike may start.

Teruel stressed they did not resort to a strike hoping they could still arrive at a settlement with the management until the assumption of  jurisdiction order came out.

He assured they would honor the order and that “there would be no drastic action on their part.”

The order requires Dole Philippines to submit a complete audited financial statement in the last three years and a projected financial statement for the next two years, the union leader said.

The union, he added, was ordered to submit its demands.

Teruel clarified the union has no intention of closing the operations of the pineapple firm by holding a strike.

“Where would we go if the company would close shop? The strike is only an ultimate weapon to pressure the company to heed the demands of the workers,” he said.

A senior company official who requested anonymity told MindaNews that Dole Philippines would comply with the order and submit their position paper within the deadline.

The source said there would be “no more mediation” between the parties because the labor secretary has entered the picture with the assumption of jurisdiction order.

“All we have to do is to submit our position paper and wait [for the decision of the labor department],” he said.

He conceded the labor secretary decided to enter the picture after various conciliation meetings failed to break the deadlock in negotiations.

The last option of the firm, which was the "improved offer," has been exhausted so the Labor department has to take on the case, he added.

A total of 3,355 workers turned out to participate in Thursday’s voting on the firm’s last offer, according to records at the regional office of the National Conciliation and Mediation Board.

Of the figure, 2562 or 76 percent rejected the offer and only 774 or 22 percent voted in its favor. Nineteen ballots were spoiled.

Dole Philippines' final offer included a 3-percent wage increase for the first year, 3.5 percent in the second year, and 4 percent in the third year. The workers wanted an increase of at least 17 percent.

The firm also offered a rice subsidy of P430 a month, an education research fund of 500,000 for the first year and P150,000 in the second and third years, lumpsum of P4,000, and P1,000 every year for three years.

 

Teruel said they have scaled down their economic demands from 72 items when they started negotiations five months ago to only nine until the referendum.


The trimmed demands for three years would only cost the company around P2 billion, or about one percent of its annual net profit.

The assumption of jurisdiction order from the labor department came out the same day that US Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney met with local officials and businessmen here.

Among those in the closed-door meeting were Dole Philippines’ general manager Kevin Davis and Presidential Assistant for Mindanao and Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza.

Dole Philippines is based in Polomolok, South Cotabato and about 25 minutes drive away from here.

Polomolok Mayor Isidro Lumayag expressed optimism the labor dispute between the company and the union would be resolved soon.

“We’re doing our best to let them come to terms,” the mayor told reporters. (MindaNews)

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