Giant pineapple company told to practice corporate social responsibility

Nov. 06, 2008

The Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, Inc. (Eiler) said that the giant pineapple company Dole Philippines should practice its business ethics and corporate responsibility with its workers by reducing the use of flexible workers through regularization. Dolefil was named one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies for a second year in a row by Ethisphere magazine in June this year.

According to a report by Asosasyon sa mga mamumuo sa Dolefil alang sa kalingkawasan ug demokrasya sa nasud (Association of workers at Dolefil for national _ and democracy or AMADO-KADENA), the workers’ union in Dolefil, the company employs 4,600 hourly rank and file workers. But there are 15,000 more workers in flexible arrangements – 8,000 workers from labor cooperatives, 1,000 project employees and 6,000 contractual workers.

The union is proposing an addendum to their collective bargaining agreement to regularize 2,000 more workers.

“Contractual workers suffer heightened exploitation and oppression under the ‘labor cooperatives’, said Eiler executive director Paul Quintos. “They are paid piece rate or ‘pakyawan’. Under this scheme, the contractual workers are required to perform a higher magnitude of labor compared to the workloads of regular workers. They must perform the volume of work required by Piece Rate Determination Order No. XII – 03 for Dole Philippines Inc. issued by the Department of Labor that defined the high volume of work and its corresponding trifling amount of wage that the company and its partner “cooperatives” can impose on their contractual workers.

Flexible labor arrangements such as through labor cooperatives increases profits tremendously by intensifying the amount of unpaid labor that the company extracts from contractual workers. The company forces contractual workers to perform labor that is more intensive by imposing production quotas – popularly called ‘pakyawan’ – which are way above the average capacity of a common worker to perform in eight hours.

“Dolefil is saving billions of pesos in wage costs by denying contractual workers their benefits. It enabled the company to evade the law requiring companies to promote workers to regular status after 6 months and to evade its responsibility to engage contractual workers in collective bargaining,” said Quintos.

Quintos also said that the unhampered use of contractual labor by Dolefil is ultimately attacking workers’ right to organization through weakening of the bargaining unit, “While the number of flexible workers are increasing, the number of regular workforce is continually decreasing.”

Meanwhile, Eiler expresses support to the petition by the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), a non-profit advocacy organization based in the United States, opposing the Dole’s request for duty free access to the US Trade Representative.

ILRF will ask the USTR to ensure that Dole meets these demands before they can receive duty free access to the U.S. (1) Dole must drop the criminal libel charges which harasses union officers, (2) Dole must provide more normal jobs, and end its use of contract laborers; and finally (3) Dole must resolve its land dispute claims.

Eiler said that the situation of farm workers such as in Dole Philippines is not far from the reality of peasants in the country which are in abject poverty. The labor advocacy group also expressed support for the farmers’ mobilization lead by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Peasant Movement of the Philippines or KMP) in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform, to protest the “market-oriented land reform program” which, according to KMP. serves the interests of rich countries and foreign-monopoly agri-corporations. #

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