DAVAO CITY – Japanese fruit exporter Sumifru (Philippines) has agreed to stop the implementation of its piece-rate pay scheme in all its packing plants in Compostela Valley province in Mindanao following a protest by its banana workers.
Banana workers said it scored a “historic win over a powerful capitalist’s attempt to implement an exploitative wage scheme.”
“In a compromise agreement signed April 22 by SUMIFRU and the workers’ unions, the piece rate pay scheme is effectively stopped and the previous hourly rate scheme restored. Furthermore, the salary differentials of the workers will be paid in full.”
“The unpopular piece rate scheme has been the cause of unrest among the workers in the Compostela banana industry because it sliced already meager wages by nearly 50 percent,” leaders of the workers’ union said in a statement sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.
It said some 5,000 workers within the SUMIFRU’s 2,700-hectare area in Compostela were affected by the piece rate scheme since the company declared its full implementation on March 23.
Because of this scheme, workers from 11 packing plants resisted the piece rate system and organized themselves into Banana Industry Growers and Workers Against SUMIFRU (Bigwas) and launched protests to force the company to revoke the piece rate scheme.
Joel Cuyos, spokesperson of Bigwas, and union president of packing plant 95’s Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa San Jose, said their victory is a victory of the working class.
“This victory is a lesson to SUMIFRU and all capitalists that you cannot impose exploitative and unjust policies on your workers without facing resistance. Moreover, this victory was made possible only because we stood united against a blatantly anti-worker policy like the piece rate system,” he said.
Kilusang Mayo Uno also lauded the “strength and unbending unity of the workers which secured this important victory.”
It said this is the second successive victory of workers in the banana industry following the conclusion of the 2-day strike of Davao del Norte banana workers on April 10.
“This victory is a concrete of expression of working class power in defeating capitalist exploitation. It is a strong warning to capitalists not to treat workers as slaves or underestimate their power when they stand united,” said Joel Maglunsod, a spokesperson for Kilusang Mayo Uno in Mindanao.
“We hope that this working class victory will challenge the workers of the banana industry in other regions in Mindanao to organize, form unions and to struggle relentlessly for fair treatment and just working conditions,” he added.
There was no statement from the SUMIFRU about this latest development in the company’s operation.
SUMIFRU started its operation in the southern Philippines in 1970 growing bananas and in 1990 it introduced Gracio brand of bananas. It now engages in the sourcing, production, shipment and marketing of various fresh fruits, primarily the bananas, pineapple and papaya and exports them to Japan, China, Korea, the Middle East, New Zealand and Russia. (Mindanao Examiner)
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