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Agricultural Workers Demand Military to Keep Out of Sumifru Strike

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) today demanded that the military stay out of the ongoing strike of the 900 workers of Japanese conglomerate owned Sumifru Corporation Philippines in Compostela Valley.

According to John Milton “Butch” Lozande, secretary general of UMA, the striking workers of Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyapa Farm (NAMASUFA) went on strike on October 1, as management refused to engage in any negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the workers union.

NAMASUFA, which is affiliated with the National Federation of Labor Unions-Kilusang Mayo Uno (NAMASUFA-NAFLU-KMU), paralyzed operations across eight of Sumifru’s banana packing plants. They have set up a peaceful picket and ceased all work in the plants.

On day 3 of the strike, KMU-SMR reported that around 15 unidentified men barged into the house of Sumifru worker-striker Mildred Maglahus and searched for Elizar Diayon, the union’s Vice-President. Failing to locate Diayon, the men bolted out of the house and stole the food supplies of one of the protest camps.

Earlier today, military personnel together with scabs have broken the picket line of the workers in Packing Plant 115 of Sumifru. Vans carrying stalled bananas inside the packing plant have passed through the gate. Nonetheless, the striking workers have regrouped and continue their strike.

This is alarming as an April 2018 fact-finding mission to Compostela Valley, revealed that Sumifru workers were being targeted and red-tagged by the 66th IBPA, and discouraged from joining NAMASUFA or any KMU-affiliated organization, or participating in union activities.

Other than that, since President Duterte declared Martial Law in Mindanao in 2017, militarization and fascist attacks against Sumifru workers and their union escalated. This included union members being accused of everything from being terrorists to being NPA members.

UMA Sec. Gen. Lozande stated that even if there is martial law in Mindanao, it does not mean that the labor rights of workers in Sumifru and elsewhere in Mindanao is already non-existent as this is guaranteed in the Constitution.

What is more alarming, though, added Lozande is the Philippine military’s mindset. Even in Batangas, where there is no formal declaration of martial law yet, the AFP and the PNP are distributing leaflets among the population which stipulates that organizing rallies and strikes is basically a crime.

Not only is the military violating the Constitution but even international labor and human rights conventions. But ultimately, it is still the workers themselves together with the rest of the Filipino people who would resist any curtailment of their labor and human rights.

Behind them is the growing support of the working people worldwide that is doing its part isolate the repressive and tyrannical US-Duterte regime internationally.

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Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura
Federation of Agricultural Workers | Philippines

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