KMU affiliate loses in Dolefil union election; decries alleged harassment, vote-buying

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/23 February) — Allegations of harassment and other irregularities from the losing group greeted the outcome of the union certification election Tuesday at fruit giant Dole Philippines Inc. (Dolefil) even as a regional labor official described the exercise as peaceful and orderly.

The militant Asosasyon sa mga Mamumuo sa Dolefil alang sa Kalingkawasan ug Demokrasya sa Nasud (Amado Kadena) lost to the Labor Employees Association of Dolefil-Polomolok Hourlies (Lead-Polomolok Hourlies), said Jimmy Marquez, chief of Dole Region 12 technical services and support division who was designated election officer for the certification election.

Marquez said the results of the election were known at around 9 p.m. Tuesday, with Lead-Polomolok Hourlies getting 2,814 votes against Amado Kadena’s 922.

Voters’ turnout was pegged at 96.4%, with 3,736 actual voters from the total of 3,876. One hundred fourteen votes were still being validated on Wednesday but this would no longer change the result.

But during the election’s closing conference, Mary Ann Lagare-Academia, lawyer of Amado Kadena, protested the outcome on the alleged grounds of vote-buying, harassment, campaigning during election day, black propaganda against the losing labor union, and the installation of CCTV cameras in and out the polling center, records showed.

Citing the law, Marquez said the complainant would be given five days to formally file their protest before the regional mediation officer of the regional Labor department office.

It will be the mediator that will formally declare the winner because of the protest manifested by one of the parties, he added.

Amado Kadena is affiliated with the National Federation of Labor Unions and Kilusang Mayo Uno, while Lead-Polomolok Hourlies has been widely perceived as a “pro-management” workers’ group.

The winning group will be the workers’ bargaining agent with the Dolefil management in the negotiations for the five-year Collective Bargaining Agreement, which expired last February 10.

“Compared to the previous union certification elections, Tuesday’s poll exercise was very peaceful and orderly due to the social partnership accord the parties signed [last month],”  Marquez said.

Last January 31, the two labor unions, the Dolefil management and other institutional stakeholders forged an “industrial peace accord” in line with the certification election.

They signed the “Social Partnership Accord on the Conduct and Related Activities Before, During and After the Certification Election at Dole Philippines, Inc., Cannery Site, Polomolok, South Cotabato.”

Lawyer Rene Ruel B. Almero, Dolefil legal department manager, gave an assurance that the company would take no part in the certification election save as mere “by-stander” pursuant to the Labor Code of the Philippines.

“[Dolefil] fully supports the certification election as a democratic process which will allow the workers freedom to choose which union will be their next bargaining agent,” he said.

For their part, the Amado Kadena and Lead-Polomolok Hourlies vowed to conduct activities related to the certification election, including campaign rallies and programs, in a peaceful and orderly manner.

Both groups also promised to “refrain from giving statements that may ruin the reputation of some persons or will hurt others’ feelings.” (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)