Bukidnon labor union votes no to strike

MALAYBALAY CITY- The Agrinanas Development Company, Inc. Employees Union based in three Bukidnon towns decided against holding a strike during voting on April 7 to 8 as the banana firm executes a massive retrenchment, board member Jay Albarece said.

Albarece said the Associated Labor Unions was hoping the union will stage a strike to pressure the company from pursuing retrenchment.

“The retrenchment is a frustration (to ALU),” he added.

He added that until the vote results were out, the ALU has not given up on their campaign against the retrenchment. He did not give the vote result but said, the margin was about 200 votes in favor of “No” to strike.

“With the negative result of the strike balloting, the workers made clear their intentions to air their protest through more amicable means rather than through a strike,” Albarece, a lawyer of the ALU, said.

Albarece said about a thousand or about 70 percent of the rank and file members of the union joined the vote.

He attributed the defeat to a campaign among local and company officials against the strike. He said the opposition feared that a strike may result in a situation worse than retrenchment.

Albarece admitted the vote has weakened their position against the retrenchment. He also said the company approved a plan to provide workers subject for retrenchment of at least a month of advance salary and to offer the retrenchment on voluntary basis after a human resource performance evaluation.

As a result of the decision, Albarece said by next month, the company will proceed with the final phase of its retrenchment.

The American owned firm 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.

The company plans to retain only 850 of at least 3,000 hectares of the firm’s banana plantation.

Of the 2,200 regular employees, they are planning only to retain only 1,000. The retrenchment and the return of the land titles will be completed next month, he said.

The ALU’s call for the deferment of the retrenchment was backed by the provincial government, the Department of Labor and Employment, the National Conciliation and Mediation Board, and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

“We have tried but failed to dissuade the company from resorting to retrenchment, said Albarece, chair of the labor committee of the provincial board and a former official of the Associated Labor Unions.

He said they have tried everything, request, arguing, and reprimand on the local managers.

“The decision to reduce (area) was been made by (managers from) Miami USA, so the local managers cannot do something about it,” he added.

He said now they are looking forward to better post retrenchment conditions to the remaining workers.

“We also need to look for other opportunities for the retrenched workers and the land owners whose lots were abandoned by the company,” he said.

He added that latter is the important task at hand.

The cutting of the contract for the leased land, at least about 2,150 hectares, could constitute a breach, he added.

But the land owners are not too eager to press charges.

He said from P12,000 per year per hectare rent, it has gone down to P8,000 this year, Albarece said as it is valued in dollars with a stronger peso.
The going rate in southern Bukidnon, he added, is between P16,000 to P18,000 per hectare per year. (Walter I. Balane/)

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