Marsman denies knowing military intervention in workers poll

Jun. 22, 2007

DAVAO CITYHow could the management of Marsman not have known that their workers are being ferried from their farms and packing houses on work hours to attend meetings where agents of the military are lecturing them about wars and communism?

Thus queried Domingo Deguma, president of Marsman Labor Association for National Democracy-National Federation of Labor Unions-Kilusang Mayo Uno (MARSLAND-NAFLU-KMU), in a picket here today in front of the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB). Deguma accused the management of doing a Pontius Pilate or washing its hands clean after their union filed a preventive mediation case at the NCMB.

The workers demanded for the management of transnational Marsman Estate Plantation, Inc. (MEPI) to desist from interfering with the run-off certification election of the workers and openly campaigning for MARSLAND-NAFLU-KMUs opponent union, Davao Marsman Labor Union (DAMLU) as this was tantamount to unfair labor practice. Employers, according to the Omnibus Labor Code, are supposed to be mere by-standers during union affairs like certification elections.

Deguma raised this question following the mediation hearing held at the NCMB where Albie Malinao, human resource manager of MEPI, denied having knowledge of DAMLU bringing workers to their office on work hours or of agents of the military conducting lectures on communism and coercing workers to vote against MARSLAND-NAFLU-KMU. The run-off certification election is set on Friday, June 22.

Every day since June 12, in batches and during work hours, workers of the estate were forced to attend meetings held by DAMLU and were told to sign their time off in the supervisors daily report (SDR) at the DAMLU office. True enough, officers of DAMLU and not supervisors were the ones who had their SDRs.

Having no choice, the workers were made to sit through films and footages that demonized KMU and MARSLAND-NAFLU-KMU and lectures from one Chito Herbolingo and another named Nonoy Mallorca. The two identified themselves to be working for the military and concurrently as media announcers. The lectures and film marathons usually lasted until past the workers work shifts but they were told that overtime would also be compensated by the management.

At the hearing today, Malinao denied knowing anything about what the workers reported and said that they shall investigate the matter. If the management didnt know, Deguma reasoned, shouldnt the supervisors report to HR department that hordes of workers are missing from work and that they have not been getting their SDRs signed by the workers? This is clearly a mere alibi.

The truth is, he related, early last week, the management personnel met with supervisors and told them to hype up the campaign for DAMLU. The capitalists of Marsman are clearly threatened by the presence of a genuine union in the estate, what more the possibility of it winning in the elections.

Deguma recounted how, through a series of pickets and lobbying, the workers under MARSLAND-NAFLU-KMU were able to force the management to pay their benefits and the four delayed payroll periods in November last year and February this year.

Romualdo Basilio, chair of NAFLU-Southern Mindanao, said that the denial of the management does not rid its liability of prejudice against MARSLAND-NAFLU-KMU. Their alibi definitely does not hold water. While its supervisors are openly campaigning for DAMLU, it has repeatedly rejected our just pleading to be let in during break and lunch hours to campaign.

The connivance of DAMLU and the management have gone very desperate that they had to seek help from agents of the military to demonize us. But we are confident that our unity will frustrate this connivance because we are bent in defeating the union that has repeatedly sold our rights to further their own selfish interests, said Deguma.

We are not bad people, he asserted, we are workers struggling to establish a genuine union that will protect our interests for wage, jobs and rights.##

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