Agriworkers hit “pakyaw” Rate in Compostela Valley

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), a national federation of unions, associations and organizations of agricultural workers, supports thousands of banana workers in Compostela Valley in their demand to scrap the 100% implementation of the piece-rate wage system or “pakyaw” in plantations of the Japanese fruit giant SUMIFRU, a subsidiary of Sumitomo Fruit Corporation.

The “pakyaw” system, an extremely oppressive wage system for farmworkers common in vast haciendas, will inevitably press down wages of banana workers who used to get paid in hourly rates.

Agricultural workers under the alliance Banana Industry Growers and Workers Against Sumifru (BIGWAS) with the support of banana workers from nine packing plants in Compostela town, Compostela Valley staged local mass actions against a memorandum issued by the Manpower Service Department of SUMIFRU to North Skilled Workers Cooperative, implementing the piece-rate wage system effective last March 23.

“Agricultural workers in Compostela immediately felt the blow of SUMIFRU’s pakyaw. In just a week of implementation, banana workers wages were cut by 50%. This piece-rate system even goes against the already low and problematic minimum wage of P307 imposed by the government in the region,” said Ranmil Echanis, UMA deputy secretary general.

According to data culled by BIGWAS from the Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyapa Farm (United Workers of Suyapa Farm) in SUMIFRU’s Packing Plant 90, one worker who timed in 5:30 am of March 23 and timed out at 5:50 am of the next day – working more than 12 hours or with an overtime of over 4 hours – will receive a measly P341 based on the piece-rate system. With the hourly rate, the worker should receive P495.40. A total of P154.40 will be slashed from his already low daily wage due to the pakyaw rate.

Furthermore, the weekly income of one worker based on the piece-rate system from March 23 to April 1 went down to a mere P2,740 – with a difference of P1,640.20 from the total of P4,380.20, which the worker should receive under hourly rates. Around 5,000 workers are affected by SUMIFRU’s new wage scheme, according to BIGWAS.

SUMIFRU is one of the largest producers and marketers of fresh Cavendish bananas, one of the country’s leading agricultural exports. Banana workers and growers in these vast plantations endure long hours of work and low incomes. The piece-rate system is further complicated by the classification of bananas into 13 type-categories with prices ranging from $8.17 to $22.35 per box.

“Foreign giants like SUMIFRU have become overconfident in implementing oppressive wage schemes such as the pakyaw, due to the non-existence of a national minimum wage. The Aquino government’s labor policies and bogus agrarian reform program have made these banana plantations in Southern Mindanao bastions of cheap labor and landgrabbing,” said Echanis.

“The dismal failure of land reform under Aquino practically allows for cacique-style unjust practices such as the pakyawan. Landgrabbing, union-busting and contractualization is further institutionalized through the systematic swindle of supposed agrarian reform beneficiaries under Agribusiness Venture Agreements (AVAs) – a modified clone of the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) scheme implemented in Aquino’s own Hacienda Luisita,” Echanis stressed.

Echanis said that AVAs allow foreign agricorporations to continue expansion while our own agricultural workers remain landless tillers with slave wages. UMA opposes another extension of the bogus Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and supports the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) or HB 252 currently pending in Congress.

It also opposes the railroading of the proposed bill called AGRIBUSINESS VENTURES ARRANGEMENT (AVA) or HB 5161 in Congress.

The persistence of oppressive wage schemes under Aquino is one of the reasons why workers under the banner of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and the broad formation All Workers Unity now demand a national minimum wage of P16,000 a month.

Member organizations of UMA will join nationwide protests calling for Aquino’s resignation on May 1, Labor Day.

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Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura

(Agricultural Workers Union)

Philippines

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