Compostela banana workers triumph in record “13-hour strike”

April 19, 2017


The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), a national federation of unions, associations and organizations of agricultural workers congratulates banana workers in Compostela Valley for the successful general strike participated in by more than a thousand workers against the “pakyaw” or piece-rate scheme implemented by Japanese fruit giant Sumifru in Compostela Valley.

The Maparat-Montevista Workers’ Union (MaMWU) in Compostela town commenced the strike yesterday, April 18 at 10:00 in the morning and was joined by 8 other unions from 7 banana packing plants and field operations.

The participation of several unions and workers effectively paralyzed the operations of Sumifru.
Sumifru is a subsidiary of Sumitomo Fruit Corporation. It is one of the largest producers and marketers of fresh Cavendish bananas in the world.

The MaMWU and representatives of Sumifru and labor agencies reached an agreement to revoke the pakyaw scheme at around 11:00 pm, after an exhaustive dialogue. The workers are affiliated with the National Federation of Labor Unions-Kilusang Mayo Uno (NAFLU-KMU).

The “13-hour strike” in Compostela is one of the shortest successful mass actions led by KMU.

Two years before, a month-long strike joined by growers and workers from 9 packing plants in the same province supposedly revoked the pakyaw scheme. However, instead of implementing the hourly rate scheme, Sumifru and its associate labor agencies deliberately imposed the pakyaw scheme.

The pakyaw system reduces workers’ wages by at least half compared to what they earn based on the hourly rate. At the same time, they have to work longer hours to pack more boxes of export bananas, compared to the hourly rate.

Workers laboring more than 12 hours or with an overtime of over 4 hours – only receive a measly P341 (P28.42/hour) based on the piece-rate system, while the hourly rate could earn as much as P495.40 (P41.28/hour).

The new minimum wage in Region 11 would be P335.00 per day starting May 1, 2017 and is only P41.875/hour.

UMA supports KMU’s call for a P750 daily minimum wage for all workers in the private sector including those working in haciendas and plantations.

UMA Secretary General Danilo Ramos said that “Workers across the country should draw inspiration and emulate the militant action of banana workers in Compostela Valley. We must organize and launch bigger industrial actions against exploitation of workers and neoliberal attacks against labor.”