Tuna dispute unions receive ‘disdainful’ treatment in Philippines

AN international ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) and IUF (International Union of Food, Agricultural and Hospitality Workers) delegation to the Philippines has expressed deep disappointment after it was met with hostile treatment during a mediation session with seafood giant, Citra Mina, over the dismissal of workers to prevent them forming a union.
Members of the ITF/IUF Catcher to counter team – a joint programme between the two global unions – are in General Santos to coincide with the tuna festival, which celebrates the massive contribution the industry makes to the Philippines economy.
They planned to use the festival as an opportunity to engage with employers, including Citra Mina, over labour rights in Philippines fishing and working together to promote a productive and profitable way forward for the industry.
A campaign to reinstate United Workers of Citra Mina Group of Companies Union (UWCMGCU) members dismissed in September 2013 has attracted widespread support from the church and community in the Philippines.
Hundreds of people turned out to a solidarity rally on Sunday with a further workers’ event planned for Wednesday.
The issue has been a matter of national interest in the country, and has been reflected in national and international press coverage. Some 8,000 support messages were also sent in a global online action.
Liz Blackshaw is programme leader for the joint ITF/IUF Catcher to Counter initiative, which works with fishers to build worker representation and improve conditions across the fishing industry.
She stated: ‘The fishing industry is crucial to the Philippines. At the moment the violations of workers’ rights which are going on mean that the country is in potential danger of being sanctioned by the European Union over illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
‘No-one wants that to happen; it’s bad for business and it’s bad for workers. We want positive productive relationships with fishing employers in the Philippines.
‘What we’ve experienced so far with regards Citra Mina is nothing short of outrageous. There is just no willingness to negotiate and we’ve been left with no confidence in the national conciliation and mediation board (NCMB), which has been handling the process between the union and the employer.
‘We’ll still be using the GenSan tuna festival to highlight that we want to work with employers not against them, and we hope that Citra Mina will come back to the table in good faith.’