Another harvester of the Filipinas Palm Oil Plantation Inc. (FPPI) died on March 23 a day after getting electrocuted while harvesting palm fruit bunches in Bgy. Bayugan 2, Agusan del Sur.

According to the statement of FPPI Workers’ Union (FPPWU), Cesar Muanag, 42, was harvesting palm fruits between 8 to 9 in the morning of March 22 when the long rod used for harvesting caught a live wire that electrocuted him. Muanag was immediately brought to Davao Medical Center. At noon of March 23, Muanag was declared dead.

Muanag worked for FPPI as a harvester for 12 years. Despite his length of service, he remained in casual status and was paid below the minimum wage. He also did not receive social security benefits such as SSS, PAG-IBIG and Philhealth and did not enjoy paid leaves and 13th month pay which are all provided in the law.

Muanag is the fifth FPPI worker to die of electrocution since November 2011 while four other survived similar accidents. The union said that the victims were all casual employees who worked between 2 to 12 years in the company. Because of their employment status, they reportedly did not receive just compensations even after catching an accident.

FPPI is a Filipino-Malaysian company that operates in Agusan del Sur, in Mindanao.

Armand Hernando, CTUHR coordinator for documentation said that FPPI should be made accountable for the death of Muagan and it must devise safety measures to avoid similar accidents. “Five workers have died in less than two years because of electrocution, both FPPI and the government must not wait for another worker to die and they must immediately act on this,” Hernando avered.

“More importantly, FPPI must be held liable for violating the workers’ right to security of tenure and other benefits. The company is practically depriving the workers of their rights even until their death. This is totally disturbing. FPPI’s massive and long term contractualization and disobedience to labor standards must be stopped.”

To date, there are still some 289 workers who are fighting for reinstatement in their work in FPPI after the company dismissed them following the ocular inspection conducted by the regional DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) in October of 2012. The ocular inspection confirmed FPPI’s non-implementation of labor standards such as minimum wage, social security among others. This issue prompted the union to hold a 62-day strike which only ended last January 2013 after the DOLE Secretary imposed an Assumption of Jurisdiction order forcing the striking workers to go back to work. (See related story.)

“We challenge the government to side with the workers and give justice to Muagan’s death and the other victims of accidents in FPPI. And this can only be achieved if FPPI is made to answer for its violations of workers’ basic rights and safety,” Hernando added.###