The complaint alleges that Dole Philippines, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Dole Foods Company, Inc., was engaged in systematic violations of its workers rights to freedom of association beginning in 2006 and continuing through 2010. From 2001 until 2005, the local union representing Dole Philippines 4,700 rank-and-file employees, AK-NAFLU-KMU, enjoyed growing support among the workers and a collaborative relationship with Dole management.
However, beginning in 2005 AK-NAFLU-KMU leaders faced an increasingly resistant management that implemented policies to undermine its leadership, including unfair labor practices against union leaders as well as the on-going singling out of strong union supporters for punishment.
Also, though AK-NAFLU-KMU won another election victory in 2008 and agreed to new contract terms with Dole, the union alleged that the company continued to work with a splinter group of former union leaders, who were working closely with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, in a public campaign to undermine AK-NAFLU-KMU. In February 2010, after a hastily organized and unsanctioned union assembly called by the URDole/Gales Group during which the participants claimed to have impeached the AK-NAFLU-KMU leadership, Dole Philippines management allegedly illegally extended recognition to the URDole/Gales Group as representatives of the workers.
In March 2010 and again in June 2010, the Philippine Department of Labor ordered Dole Philippines to comply with Philippine law and return recognition to AK-NAFLU-KMU. Dole Philippines management refused.
The union requested that the US NCP assist with election monitoring to ensure free and fair elections, facilitate mediation between the parties in order to address issue of free and fair union elections, and issue a public written statement regarding Doles compliance with the OECD Guidelines and recommendations for Doles obligations under the OECD Guidelines.
Relevant OECD Guidelines
- Version 2000 Chapter II
- Version 2000 Chapter II Paragraph II.1
- Version 2000 Chapter IV
- Version 2000 Chapter IV Paragraph IV.2 Subparagraph IV.2.B
- Version 2000 Chapter IV Paragraph IV.2 Subparagraph IV.2.C
- Version 2000 Chapter IV Paragraph IV.3
- Version 2000 Chapter IV Paragraph IV.8
In October 2010, the US NCP began the process of making an initial assessment on the case. On December 15, 2010, Dole Foods responded to the complaint denying any wrongdoing and arguing that the complaint constitutes an internal union dispute between competing union factions. The company refused to agree to allow outside, independent election monitoring during the certification election campaign period on the grounds that the Philippine Governments election monitoring was sufficient.
The company also did not agree to mediate any of the pending unfair labour practice claims. However, Dole Foods did agree to the unions request for a determination by the US NCP on the companys compliance with the OECD Guidelines.
In a letter to ILRF on February 4, 2011, which was two weeks before the scheduled union certification elections, the US NCP issued an initial determination, in which it declined to offer its good offices.
In the decision, the NCP accepted Dole Foods characterization of the dispute as being an intra-union matter, and since Dole Foods had promised to abide by the results of the February 2010 elections, the election should resolve the intra-union dispute. However, the NCP did not raise or address the unions allegations that Dole Foods was actively supporting efforts to unseat the union in the February 2010 elections.
The US NCP denied the request to monitor the elections stating, “In our view, the Procedural Guidance does not support the active intervention of an NCP in the legitimate governmental activities of a sovereign country”.
Finally, despite willingness by both the complainant and company management to seek a determination by the NCP on the companys compliance with the Guidelines, the NCP refused to make such a determination.