Probe of layoff of 500 DOLE workers sought

Published December 4, 2020, 10:55 AM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Sen. Risa Hontiveros has urged the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) to investigate the alleged irregularities surrounding the retrenchment of nearly 500 regular workers of DOLE Philippines Inc. (Dolefil), one of the largest producers and exporters of fresh and canned pineapples in the country.

Senator Risa Hontiveros (Joseph Vidal/Senate PRIB)

In a letter addressed to Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III, Hontiveros pointed out Dolefil has not suffered any substantial and imminent losses in recent years to legally retrench its workers, as shown in their latest annual audited financial statements (AAFS).

“Nananawagan ako sa (I’m calling on) DoLE to immediately look into this case. Ngayong panahon ng pandemya, hindi natin puwedeng talikuran ang mga nawalan ng hanapbuhay lalo’t may nakita silang irregularidad sa kanilang retrenchment (During this time of pandemic, we can’t turn our backs to those who lost their jobs especially if they see some irregularities in their retrenchment),” Hontiveros said in a statement.

The senator also noted that the mass retrenchment appeared to have been done in bad faith as the company prioritized the termination of a significant number of regular workers instead of contractual employees.

“Nakakaalarma din na sa kabila ng pagre-regular nila sa nasa 5,000 employees noong 2018, bilang suporta sa kampanya ng gobyerno laban sa endo, nagpatuloy pa rin silang mag hire ng contractual workers (It’s alarming that despite regularizing 5,000 employees in 2018 in support of the government’s campaign against contractualization, they still hired contractual workers),” she pointed out.

“This clearly belied the basis given for the retrenchment of its regular workers,” she added.

The lawmaker also questioned why Dolefil filed the notice of retrenchment on Sept. 18, 2020, or three days after the actual termination of the workers on Sept. 15, 2020.

She said DoLE should immediately mediate between Dolefil and the retrenched workers to determine whether the company is liable for violation of labor laws.

Nevertheless, Hontiveros said she hopes a dialogue could create a mutually-acceptable solution to prevent a more serious labor dispute.

She also urged DoLE to look into other companies that might have been illegally dismissing their employees and ensure that the rights of the workers would not be undermined.

“DoLE’s mandate is to ensure that employers are compliant with the requirements of our labor laws. At the end of the day, workers’ welfare and rights should come first. They should always be our top priority,” she said.