Canneries in Zamboanga City face shortage of workers

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/10 July) – The production of sardines of the locally-based canneries might be affected brought about by the shortage of workers.

Edgar Lim, manager of Permex Producer and Exporter Corporation (Permex), said production works in the canneries should be full blast by this time since the closed season for sardine fishing ended four months ago.

But he said production works are slow because only few of the thousands of workers have reported back to work although the closed fishing season is over.

“Where have the people, especially the workers, gone? How come we don’t have enough workers in Zamboanga City?” Lim asked.

Jose Suan, president of the Philippine Industrial Integrated Labor Union (PIILU), an attached organization of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), has an explanation. His group’s initial findings – during the break, the workers found jobs in their respective localities and found it better than to work far from home. But he could not explain why this happened only now and not in the years before.

The 12 canning factories based in this city, as well as the local fishing industry, employ at least 30,000 workers.

The closed season for sardine fishing is being observed from December 1 to March 1 primarily to allow the fish, particularly “tamban,” which is used in sardine production, to spawn.

The workers usually go home to their respective provinces during the closed season since there is no production work. They return once the closed season ends.

Lim, former president of Industrial Group of Zamboanga, Inc. (IGZI), said they have already gone as far as the provinces of Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur to hire people but they still lack workers.

He said in the case of Permex, they are still accepting workers from the other provinces outside the region although they have already hired 400 workers from Zamboanga del Norte.

PERMEX is one of the biggest tuna and sardine processing plants in the country, employing about 2,000 workers with a rated capacity to process 120 metric tons of tuna and 150 metric tons of sardines per day.