Davao City – The National Conciliation and Mediation Board, Regional Branch XI OIC-Director Ma. Theresa M. Francisco with the support of USec Rebecca C. Chato, Administrator Shirley M. Pascual, Deputy Exective Director Edmundo T. Mirasol, Regional Director Joffrey Suyao, Assistant Regional Director Jason Balais and Atty. Ligaya Lumbay, OIC-Director of NCMB RB XIII settleS the labor dispute between Musahamat Workers Labor Union-National Federation of Labor Union-Kilusang Mayo Uno (MWLU-NAFLU-KMU) and Musahamat Farm II docketed as RCMB-XI-CVP-NS-03-001-2016 on April 15, 2016.

On March 15, 2016, the Union filed a Notice of Strike case against its employer on the grounds of 1. Union busting due to termination of union officers and members, 2. Illegal suspension, 3. Withholding of union dues and agency fee and 4. Continuance of Union Action to RCMB-XI-CVP-PM-03-005-2016 which was converted to NOS.

The Union specified the issue on union busting as termination of 19 union officers and 52 union members and suspension of 9 union officers and 18 union members for allegedly holding and participating rally inside the company premises, thus, violating the company policy on no rally zone.

The Union then requests for the reinstatement and lifting of suspension of 52 union officers/members with full backwages and other benefits.

Secondly, the Union asks for management to remit to the union the withheld amount of collected union dues and agency fees for two (2) months of at least seventy (70) union members.

Lastly, the Union asks for the lifting of the “No Rally Zone” policy imposed by the management.

On March 28, 2016, the Union then submitted the strike vote result with a total votes cast of 157 in favour of staging a strike out of 250 union members.

On April 4, 2016, the Management, however, manifested that it is not issuing notices of termination to any union officers of MWLU-NAFLU-KMU and that no union officers will be terminated by Musahamat Farm II. Hence, the issue on union busting as lodged in this instant Notice of Strike has no basis according to the management.

The Management denies any unremitted amount to the union it deducted from the payroll of the workers. Instead, they ask for the proof of check off authorization and letters from the union members who intend for non-deduction of union dues.

The Management posits that the no rally zone policy shall be first interpreted within the bounds of the law. It further explains that it did not want to curtail the workers constitutional right to freedom of expression and assembly. However, the rally entails infestation of diseases and bio security control and that they want to stop or limit the spread of crop diseases.

On April 6, 2016, the Regional Inter Agency Coordinating and Monitoring Council (RICMC) of Region XI convened pursuant to Department Order No. 40-G-03-10 to discuss the looming labor dispute at Musahamat Farms 1 and 2. One of the items taken is to reach out to 52 affected workers and inform them of the remedies available to them and to encourage LGU through the PESO to explore possible livelihood assistance to the affected workers and their families.

On April 7, 2016, the Management clarified that there are 52 agency workers under the Manpower agency accredited by DOLE who have been employed for 4-5 years before they were terminated.

Union also proposes that these 52 workers must be regularized.

After the marathon conciliation conferences on April 13, 14 and 15, 2016, both parties finally agreed to settle the instant Notice of Strike through the signing of an agreement with the terms and conditions.

The Management offers direct hiring of 52 agency workers. These workers will have the option to avail the financial assistance should they decide not to continue to work equivalent to 15 days per year of service or to be absorbed by Musahamat Farm II as employees and will undergo the probationary status as provided for by law. The evaluation of the regularization of the interested workers shall be done by the Technical Working Group composed of NCMB/DOLE and union and management representatives using the standard criteria they formulated. In addition, the workers who have served their suspension shall be given financial assistance.

Morever, the management will deduct union dues per month covering employees not credited with union dues and remit to the union not later than fifteen (15) days from signing of the agreement.

A total of P52,500.00 benefitted 35 workers.

With the unified resoluteness and courage of the parties, the potential labor strike was averted as well as possible loss of employment and closure of company business according to Francisco.

Musahamat Workers Labor Union is affiliated with National Federation of Labor Union-Kilusang Mayo Uno and 250 union members led by its local union president Mr. Esperidion Cabaltera.

Moreover, Musahamat Farms, Inc.-Farm II is engaged in planting and marketing of fresh Cavendish bananas. It has a total workforce of 500 plantation employees represented by Mr. Rey M. Guillen, Administrative/HR Manager. (Sheila A. Rivera, LIO-designate).