Dolefil, new workers’ union gear for CBA negotiation

POLOMOLOK, South Cotabato (MindaNews/07 March)—Giant fruit producer Dole Philippines, Inc. (Dolefil) and the freshly certified workers’ union are preparing for the negotiation of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), officials said on Monday.

Simon Denye, new Dolefil vice president and managing director, said the Department of Labor and Employment has finally declared the Labor Employees Association of Dolefil-Polomolok Hourlies (Lead-Polomolok Hourlies) as the workers’ bargaining agent with the management.

“Dolefil maintained a tradition of working with unions since the beginning of our operations in 1963 [here]. This culture is embedded in the company’s union-shop clause. As Dolefil has always done in the past, we will recognize and engage in negotiations with the new democratically elected union leadership towards the signing of a new CBA,” Denye said in a statement.

In a certification election on Feb. 22, company workers chose between Lead-Polomolok Hourlies and the Asosasyon sa mga Mamumuo sa Dolefil alang sa Kalingkawasan ug Demokrasya sa Nasud (Amado Kadena), an affiliate of the National Federation of Labor Unions and Kilusang Mayo Uno which had represented the workers since 2001.

Lead-Polomolok Hourlies won by a wide margin, 2,814 votes as against Amado Kadena’s 922, out of the total registered voters of 3,876, records of the regional Labor department office showed.

During the exit poll conference, Amado Kadena issued an oral manifestation protesting the outcome on grounds of alleged harassment, vote-buying and electioneering and was given five days to file a formal complaint.

Jimmy Marquez, chief of Dole Region 12 technical services and support division who was designated election officer for the union certification election, said that Amado Kadena failed to submit a formal complaint within the prescribed period.

“In a tripartite council meeting on February 28, Amado Kadena representatives declared they will not anymore contest the election, thus Lead-Polomolok Hourlies is now the certified bargaining agent of the Dolefil workers,” Marquez said in a separate interview.

Denye noted that last month’s certification election was “clean, orderly and peaceful,” hence reflective of the true sentiments of the workers at Dolefil, a subsidiary of the US-based Dole Food Company, Inc.

The certification election confirmed the results of a union general assembly held on February 13, 2010, he said.

At that time, over 70% of Dolefil’s workers had voted to replace the leadership of AK-NAFLU-KMU and elected a new set of officers, Denye added.

The conduct of last year’s general assembly was then challenged and created an intra-union dispute regarding legitimacy for workers’ representation, to which the February 22, 2011 certification election gives a clear answer, the company executive said.

Francis Gales, Lead-Polomolok Hourlies chairman, told MindaNews they are finalizing their CBA proposal and will hopefully submit it to the management within the week.

“Essentially, we would like to enhance the wages and benefits that company workers must receive,” he said without elaborating.

The CBA of the workers and the management at Dolefil expired last February 10. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)