European trade unions protest fish products from PH's Citra Mina
MANILA, Philippines – European trade unions expressed "regret" over the participation of Philippine-based firm Citra Mina (Philfresh) in the SeaFoodExpo in Brussels – considered the world's largest seafood trade event – which started Tuesday, April 21.
The tuna exporting company "is sadly renowned of its standing human rights violations," read a joint statement by the European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions (EFFAT) and the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF).
EFFAT and ETF cited Citra Mina's "continuous precarious employment contracts, poor health and safety conditions and retaliations to the workers."
For alleged corporate misdeeds, Citra Mina, which has its primary operations based in General Santos City in Mindanao, has been the subject of a congressional investigation.
Allegations also surfaced against Citra Mina for employing dummies in hiring local fishermen. This way, it denies employer-employee relationship with these fishermen and consequently not provide them with law-mandated protection for workers.
A lawmaker is proposing an official probe in aid of legislation into the company's alleged anti-worker practices, including non-compliance with occupational safety and health standards in its fish processing factories.
EFFAT and ETF "noticed" that the Brussels event – marketed to attract "buyers, suppliers and processing-industry professionals from over 140 countries" – featured Citra Mina.
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The two European pro-worker groups recommended that the European Union (EU) "ensure that the Philippines and all sea food supplying countries develop fair industrial relations for the production of fish and sea food products."
It asked the bloc of 28 member-states to "trace the imported food and not to allow products from contested origin to appear on the shelves of European supermarkets."
Tuna industry in PH
The tuna industry in the Philippines is part of EU's General System of Preferences Plus (GSP+), which grants certain tarrif-related benefits, providing Philippine exporting companies an edge over those from other states.
EFFAT and ETF said the EU, being "the largest market for sea food and fisheries products," should ensure that its GSP+ system "does not entail the demise of international labor standards" by supporting non-compliant corporations such as Citra Mina.
The organizations urged the Philippine tuna industry "to maintain its GSP+ status by embracing a sustainable approach that incorporates social and labor sustainability."
The Philippines, according to business intelligence news site ASEAN Briefing, is the first member-state of ASEAN to be granted GSP+ status.
This gives the Philippines additional boost in jobs creation and revenues.
In the said report, it said Philippine exports to the EU account for 11.56% of the Southeast Asian country's total exports.
EU is the Philippines' 4th largest trading partner and 4th largest export market with $11.28 billion in bilateral trade in 2013 alone, it added.
A European Trade Union Federation, EFFAT claims to represent 120 national trade unions from 35 European countries and defend the interests of more than 2.6 million members.
ETF, on the other hand, is a pan-European organization of trade unions from the European Union, the European Economic Area, and Central and Eastern European countries.
It claims to represent more than 3.5 million transport workers from 231 transport unions in the railways, road transport and logistics, maritime transport, inland waterways, civil aviation, ports & docks, tourism, and fisheries sectors of 41 European countries. – Rappler.com