“It felt like the Tuna Congress is for everyone except the people who catch and process tuna!” This is the overall assessment of Samahang United Workers of Citra Mina Group of Companies Union (UWCMGCU) on the recently concluded National Tuna Congress as expressed by its president Jumary Arevalo.
The workers find it highly paradoxical that the Tuna Congress talked about “shared resources” and yet disregarded the most important resource of the tuna industry – its workers. “What is the tuna industry without the tuna workers?,” Arevalo asserted.
“The worst part is that the Tuna Congress not only excluded us – the workers – in its agenda, it even tried to censor all our messages,” Arevalo complained.
He said that the union’s flyers were confiscated inside and outside the congress venue, while the management of Citra Mina had a wide and exclusive space for its PR campaign and all the freedom to distribute anti-union leaflets. Meanwhile, at least 30 ‘Justice for Citra Mina’ banners that the union put up in various public places around the city were stolen. Even the billboard that was installed at the Matutum Hotel was taken down.
“We are happy to note that that our city mayor is committed to put our billboard back,” Arevalo said.
He also said that the union’s float, which was officially admitted as Float #4, was allowed at the beginning but was forbidden to continue up to the culmination point because it carried the message of ‘Justice for Citra Mina Workers’. The program organizer was too afraid to admit who gave the order to detain the union’s float. The union can only suspect that the order came from Mr. Joaquin T. Lu. After all, Citra Mina is the one affected by our message for justice.
“All these repressive actions was designed to silence us,” Arevalo declared.
However, Mr. Joaquin T. Lu’s overreaction and the black propaganda he hurled against the two global unions, International Union of Food and Allied Workers (IUF) and International Transport Workers Union (ITF), backfired. His actions not only paved the way for the workers’ concerns to be the “talk of the town”, he also exposed Citra Mina’s contempt for workers’ fundamental right to organize and collectively bargain.
Citra Mina even fabricated a story to the media that the NCMB has given a return-to-work order to the dismissed workers of Citra Mina. The NCMB, as mediation body, does not give orders. Obviously, this is another botched PR campaign to divert people’s attention from the real issues and impress the public that it is not violating the human rights of its workers.
In the end, the solution to this problem is just very simple. And the management can easily resolve the problem anytime. All it has to do is correct its wrongdoing by recognizing the union and reinstating all the illegally dismissed workers with full back wages.
“We are seriously worried that if this issue will take longer and violations of human rights continue in Citra Mina, the whole tuna industry of this city could be affected,” Arevalo cautioned. “We do not want this to happen. If it does, Citra Mina is the only one to blame,” he added.
The union called on all the people, especially the concerned government agencies and tuna industry employers association, to convince Mr. Joaquin T. Lu to stop delaying the resolution of this problem.