Published: 06/03/2017
A labor strike in the Citra Mina Group of Companies (CMGC), the second largest company in the Philippines tuna industry, which started in General Santos City on November 13, 2013, remains unresolved to this day. The sacking of those workers, who demand union recognition, is just the tip of the iceberg in the long story of massive violations of workers’ rights permeating the whole tuna industry

The Citra Mina case was once again brought to the attention of the Philippine parliament on January 31, 2017. In his privilege speech, Tom Villarin, a Member of the House of Representatives, quoted Citra Mina as a scandalous example of a company broadly imposing slavery-like working conditions on tuna workers. Of the 3,200 Citra Mina employees, only around 500 have regular employment contracts. Both permanent and casual fish processing factory workers have to work more than eight hours every day; the CMGC violates fundamental standards of labor relations, arbitrarily and discriminately denying its workers the payment of premiums and bonuses for working overtime, during regular holidays, night shifts, etc. 

But the situation is even worse for around 2,000 of the company’s high sea fishers who are employed under the “cabo” system by the company’s subcontractors.

Mandatory social security and health and safety provisions are routinely ignored or grossly violated by the management, especially with relation to high sea workers. Every year at least one worker dies working for the Citra Mina Group. The families of those fatal accident victims receive no assistance at all from the company. At least 14 company workers are reported to be missing and there are more than a hundred of them who were jailed in Indonesia for illegal fishing, spending months behind bars without any noticeable assistance from the company. 

Citra Mina represents “a grim reality of slave-like work and systematic violations of labor standards, including safety and health standards”, concluded Tom Villain who then urged the Parliament to investigate the tuna industry practices of labor rights violations, particularly, the illegal dismissals case filed by Citra Mina workers against the company management. He called for immediate reinstatement of the 104 workers summarily dismissed in 2013 and stressed the need to review the status of the Philippines under the EU General System of Preferences as violation of workers’ rights constitutes an instance of wrongful policy that falls within the purview of such a trade agreement and has to be dealt with in accordance with its provisions.