2,000 face retrenchment as banana firm warns of closure

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/20 Jan) – Close to 2,000 regular and contracted workers face retrenchment as banana firm Agrinanas Development Co., Inc. (ADCI) filed a notice of closure at the Department of Labor and Employment last month, according to Bukidnon provincial board member Jay Albarece.

Albarece, a top official of the Associated Labor Unions – TUCP before winning a seat in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, said the ALU-TUCP is strongly opposing the retrenchment and will question its legality in the proper time.

Based on an advertisement it posted in the Internet for job hiring in 2008, the company “is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Del Monte Fresh Produce Company (a US Multinational Company), and is currently developing a 4,000-hectare banana plantation in the municipalities of Talakag, Baungon and Libona in Bukidnon.”

A source at the labor sector said the company “employs 2,100 regular employees and about 1,000 to 2,000 more workers provided by third party contractors.”

Albarece said the firm’s labor union has sought ALU-TUCP’s help following the issuance of the notice of closure.

Tago G. Sarigan, chief of the DOLE-10 regional office’s technical services support division – regulatory unit, confirmed the report to MindaNews via telephone Thursday morning.

“It’s confirmed and laborers are now worried about their status. There have been meetings to help workers talk to the management about their separation fees,” he said.

Sarigan said among the reasons cited in the notice is “marketing problems.” Another labor official, who asked not to be named for lack of authority to speak on the matter, said the firm cited “high cost of production” brought about by widespread Moko and Panama disease infestation in its banana plantation.

Roselle Gladys Aceron-Lumba, ADCI human resource management officer, denied via telephone that they issued a notice. Speaking through a staff as she was in a meeting, Lumba noted that the company has in fact processed the renewal of their business permit for 2011.

Saturnino Escobido, DOLE Bukidnon provincial director, told MindaNews the company really sent DOLE-10 the notice. He clarified that he has no copy because it went straight to their regional office. He vowed to furnish MindaNews a copy of the notice.

He said the company has a right to issue the notice especially if an “authorized cause” like losses is cited.

But he said the notice has to be filed at the DOLE at least 30 days before effectivity.

Albarece said initial talks are underway.

“In the meantime, [ALU-TUCP] is actively monitoring the efforts to soften the impact of the impending retrenchment to the affected workers, their families and communities,” he said. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)