Retrenchment looms at Bukidnon agri firm; at least 1,000 workers face termination

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/16 March) – American Agrinanas Development Co., Inc. (ADCI) has shelved plans to shut down its operations in three Bukidnon towns but company officials told the workers union that its top management based in Miami in the US has decided to reduce operations, a member of the provincial board said.

The provincial government had tried but failed to dissuade the company from resorting to retrenchment, said Jay Albarece, chair of the labor committee of the provincial board and a former official of the Associated Labor Unions.

The meeting between Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. and the visiting US-based managers of the firm only resulted in “delaying the pace” of the retrenchment, he added.

ADCI had filed a notice of closure at the Department of Labor and Employment regional office in December.

The notice of closure would also mean cancellation of lease contracts with landowners.

Albarece said the company will retain only 850 hectares of its present 3,000-hectare plantations in the towns of Baungon, Libona and Talakag and only 1,000 of its present 2,300 regular personnel and at least 500 contractual workers.

He said that as of March 16 ADCI has already fired 300 of the 1,300 workers they have programmed for retrenchment even if a mediation process was still being pursued by the National Conciliation and Mediation Board and the Department of Labor (DOLE) regional office.

He said next week will be very crucial as the ALU was sticking to its “no retrenchment” position.

But Albarece said a core issue is the basis of the separation pay, a statement that appears to contradict ALU’s “no retrenchment” stance.

Rosanna Calingin, one of the managers of the firm, told the provincial board last month that the affected laborers will be paid half a month’s salary for every year of service.

Albarece, however, questioned the legality of the move. He said the Labor Code only provides for separation pay which is based on 22.5 workdays per month.

He said the union will stick to the Labor Code as the sole basis of computing separation pay.

Calingin told the board members in February that the company has filed a notice of closure at the DOLE due to financial difficulties caused by plant disease in its banana plantations.

The provincial board passed a resolution last month requesting the ACDI top management to stop the retrenchment.

The provincial board invoked Pater Familias or the general welfare clause of the Local Government Code in a resolution asking the company to stop the retrenchment. It further asked both parties to reach a “win-win” solution.

The ALU insisted that a retrenchment would require the company to obtain approval of the notice of closure or retrenchment it submitted to DOLE.

Albarece said that so far DOLE has not acted on the firm’s notice.

A jobs ad posted on the Internet in 2008 said the company “is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Del Monte Fresh Produce Company”. (Walter I. Balane /MindaNews)