Desiccated coco producer denies skirting labor laws in Davao del Sur
STA. CRUZ, Davao del Sur, Philippines – Desiccated coconut producer Franklin Baker Co. denied on Saturday it has been trying to skirt labor laws by absorbing some 1,100 coconut industry workers who used to be regular workers as new contractual hires.
The protesting coconut industry workers were never company employees, the company claimed in response to last week’s picket outside its plant here.
According to Jerry Lorenzo, Franklin Baker president and chief executive officer, the company has three long-time suppliers of fresh pared coconut meat, which in turn have regular or contractual employees.
“Long-time contractors of Franklin Baker Co. were allowed to use this facility (Sta. Cruz plant) in accord with service agreement to provide better working environment to the contractors’ employees while providing better efficiency and better food safety quality control,” Lorenzo said in a statement provided the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
He said that under the service agreements, the workers would remain with the suppliers. The company has three long-time regular suppliers here: B/L Investment Inc., Golden White Coco Traders, and Mactan.
“These suppliers are (the) legitimate job contractors, who in turn, have their own regular employees who perform work to enable these suppliers to provide the coconut meat to Franklin Baker Co.,” Lorenzo added.
Earlier, the coconut industry workers said there was collusion between Franklin Baker and the three other firms to skirt labor laws.
The workers said under a recently signed agreement, some 1,100 coconut industry workers – many of whom have served for many years already – were reverted to being newly hired employees at Franklin Baker.
They said the scheme, which the coconut desiccated firm signed with its raw coconut suppliers – B/L Investment Inc., Golden White Coco Traders, and Mactan – had put to waste their length of service.
“Many of us have worked for more than 10 years already but they would regard us as new employees now. We might be able to agree if they give us separation pay,” Jimboy Marciano, the spokesperson of Samahan ng Manggagawang Kontraktwal (Sama-Ako), said.
Carlo Olalo, the spokesperson of Kilusang Mayo Uno in Southern Mindanao, said “the collusion between Franklin Baker and the three companies is clearly an attempt to evade responsibility to workers.”
“The scheme to absorb all workers from (the three companies) and make them agency hires is the handiwork of Franklin Baker, which designed this scheme in order to frustrate all overstaying workers’ attempts to become regular workers. This is happening all over the country because contractualization is legal,” Olalia said.
But Lorenzo said the protesting coconut industry workers might have been “misled into thinking they were hired by Franklin baker Co.” because they were working at the desiccated coconut facility here.
He said while Franklin Baker indeed entered into an agreement with the suppliers, it was only for the use of the facility.
“Franklin Baker Co. did not hire any of the employees of these legitimate job contractors. They continue to work with their respective employees, (the) suppliers of Franklin Baker Co.,” he said.
Mayor Joel Ray Lopez said he was also made to understand that the problem of the protesting coconut industry workers were with the suppliers and not the company itself.
Lopez said the local government has been trying to broker talks between the workers and the three suppliers.
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