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Bacolod City, Philippines Wednesday, October 4, 2017
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DOLE denies First Farmers
MR on P6.6M pay to workers

The Department of Labor and Employmenthas denied the motion for reconsideration filed by First Farmers Holding Corp.after finding the firm liablefor not paying wage differentials and other workers' benefits amounting to P6,662,110.90 to the members of First Arrastre Stevedoring Services Employees' Union (FASSEU).

Based on the resolution from the DOLE central office signed by Secretary Silvestre Bello III, the motion filed lacks merit and therefore the agency's decision for the company to pay almost 92 sugar workers who filed the case nine years ago is affirmed.

First Farmers filed the MR to the Feb. 9, 2017 resolution of DOLE that they are solidarily liable to pay the complainants the aggregate amount of more than P6.6M representing their wage differentials, 13 th month pay and service incentive leave.

FASSEU Chairman Armando Alicante, in an interview yesterday, said they finally won the case after almost 9 years, adding that the agency should fast- track its decision to make the company pay their wage differentials and other benefits.

First Farmers claimed that the computation of the monetary award lacks basis as the sugar industry is irregular and lasts only for nine months. The resolution also stated that the complainants' work is also dependent on the availability of sugar and the rate is based on 16 to 20 days per month.

However, the resolution also said that FASSEE argued a motion study conducted 20 years ago was superceded by wage orders issued by the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board and does not include piece rate orders.

Alicante said 92 sugarcane workers will benefitfrom the P6.6M pay, adding that each of them might may get around P73,000.

“We will use this money to make a living, buying livestock or equipment for farming,” he said, adding that an immediate release of their pay should be made as they have suffered since 2008 when they filed their case to fight for their rights.

The workers' group is still encamped in front of the DOLE Provincial Office along Cottage Road, Bacolod City, while they demand for the immediate resolution of this case. This is their 24 th day today and Alicante said they will not leave until the procedures for payment are initiated.

Alicante said they havejust received the resolution of the labor agency.

DOLE-NIR Assistant Director Jason Balais also said they cannot assure that the settlement will be done 10-days as the central office will still need confirmation that the two parties have received the resolution before they make their entry of judgment.

“We should wait first for the central office to issue the entry of judgment,” he said, adding this is to make sure that the order of Secretary Bello is final and can be executed.

There are certain issues to be considered, like the freight situation and when both parties have confirmed to the central office that they have received the written resolution, Balais said.

However, he assured the sugar workers that they will enforce what is stated under the order on what the law provides.

Aside from this case, FASSEU also filed an Illegal Dismissal complaint with the National Labor Relations Commission against the company for allegedly displacing them from their jobs in 2012. * MLG


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