As a counter-summit to the official Tuna Congress in General Santos City in the Philippines, SENTRO held its 4th National Fishworkers Congress September 2-3, 2022. Hundreds of fisherfolks, commercial fishers and canning factory workers attending the Fishworkers Congress angrily denounced the new Voluntary Code of Good Practices signed by the SOCSKSARGEN Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries (SAFFAI) Tripartite Council during the official Tuna Festival.

“The so-called Voluntary Code, is nothing but a PR exercise that SAFFAI is using to whitewash its horrendous record in wantonly violating the rights and welfare of its workers”, said Herbert Demos, Regional Secretary of SENTRO SOCSARGEN.

“Its promises to uphold safely and health, provide education and skills upgrading, utilize alternative dispute mechanisms, respect labor standards and use retrenchments as a last resort will have no chance of being enforced so long as the industry continues to ignore workers’ right to freedom of association.”

The fraudulent Voluntary Code claims to be tripartite but has no legitimate labour representation. It is designed to avoid the legal obligations of DO-156

The Voluntary Code was signed without properly consulting the labor sector. The labor representatives who signed the document were members of the management and their allies.

SENTRO has long been criticizing SAFFAI for actively blocking the enforcement of Department Order No.156 Rules and Regulations governing the Working and Living Conditions of Fishers on board Fishing Vessels engaged in Commercial Fishing Operation which was issued in 2016.

“8 years after the issuance of DO-156, none of our commercial fishers have enjoyed its guarantee that they get at least the minimum wage on top of their rightful share of the catch and all the labor standards are respected.”

More importantly, workers in the canning factories and those onboard commercial fishing vessels have yet to access their full trade union rights. The extensive use of contractualization, the denial of employee-employer relations and the militant anti-union attitude of employers are the key factors preventing unionization.

“We call on all those government representatives who signed the Voluntary Code to withdraw their imprimatur unless SAFFAI agrees to subject the same to meaningful consultation and takes into consideration the respect for workers’ constitutional right to self-organize, collectively bargain and to strike.”