Anti-labor practices sour Dole Philippines’ expansion plans

US company Dole wants to raise its investment in the Philippines and is applying for special trade benefits from the US government to help fund the expansion but an international labor group has opposed the quick grant of privileges to Dole, citing the latter’s gross disrespect of labor rights.

But Dole only has itself to blame for bungling its new business expansion plan, according to the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) which has testified before the US Trade Representative’s trade policy staff committee against Dole’s application for generalized system of preferences (GSP) privileges for Dole pineapple juices.

In his testimony before the USTR panel, Brian Campbell said that

The ILRF is not opposed to Dole eventually receiving GSP benefits for its pineapple juice. We ask, though, that the Committee defer any decision on Dole’s petition for at least one year until Dole takes measures to ensure that its workforce can freely enjoy the right to freedom of association and enjoys acceptable conditions of work, as is one of the goals of the GSP program. Also, Dole should not receive any benefits as long as the Philippine military continues harassing workers and the members of Amado Kadena. Dole and the Philippine government must commit to respecting the right of the Dole workforce including contract laborers, to elect their own representatives without interference.

Campbell said that relevant US law on GSP seeks to ensure workers’ rights are upheld in business that apply for or benefit from GSP privileges.

The ILRF study also found the Philippine government and the Armed Forces of the Philippines as “in cahoots” with Dole Philippines in denying or violating the rights of workers in Dole plantations in Mindanao.

Dole Philippines proclaims that it runs “the largest integrated pineapple plantation, cannery and packaging complex in the world” and likewise boasts of “attractive working conditions”

Workers are well paid at Dolefil; average wages are 83% higher than the legal minimum wage. Everybody also enjoys the benefits of a full social security system providing sickness and disability payment, medical care for employees and dependents, plus a loan and housing program that enables many workers to buy their own homes.

There’s a long list of fringe benefits too, from a family education allowance, maternity assistance and pension plan through to medical benefits, paid vacation leave and allowances for travel, food and meals.

Dole fired two union employees early this year.

More about Dole’s sour labor rights record here.

If the ILRF and its partner organizations in the Philippines succeed in their intervention before the USTR, it will help 6,000 full-time workers and 14 contractual employees of Dole attain their rights by making the company follow international-accepted labor standards.