Miners Cripple Underground Operations at Lepanto

A deadlock in the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiations prompted the more than 1,000 workers of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMCo) to go on strike last June 2. Lepanto, the lone gold producer in the country, earned around P2.7 billion in 2004 alone. The workers’ demand for a wage increase will only cost the company around P94 million in three years.

Northern Dispatch


MANKAYAN, Benguet — The 1,687-strong Lepanto Employees Union (LEU) went on strike last June 2 due to a deadlock in the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiations.

The strike totally paralyzed the underground operations of the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMCo). The LCMCo is the lone gold producer in the country.

The same union went on strike in 2003. At that time, they were able to get most of their demands, including the reinstatement of retrenched union officers. LCMCo Resident Manager Augusto Villaluna said that LCMCo lost around P142 million ($2.61 million) in the 2003 strike.

The workers are now calling for an increase in their daily wage amounting to P29, P29 and P33 ($0.53, $0.53 and $0.61, based on an exchange rate of P54.49 per US dollar) for the first, second and third year of the CBA’s effectivity. The management, however, made a counter-offer of P21-P26-P28 ($0.38, $0.48 and $0.51).

The CBA is supposed to cover 2005 to 2008. Other demands of the workers include housing allowance, rest leave and separation pay.

Meanwhile, some 85 elements of the 54th Infantry Battalion (IB), combined with integrees from the paramilitary Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) and the Civilian Armed Forces Geographic Unit (CAFGU) were deployed here a day after Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas issued an Assumption of Jurisdiction (AJ) order on May 10.

This development, however, did not deter workers who were already planning to stage a strike.

Article 263 of the Labor Code states that the issuance of an AJ order compels striking workers to return to work or to stop any impending strike. The pursuance of any strike, despite the order, would automatically make it illegal and paves the way for the dismissal of union leaders.

However, Villaluna said that the military deployment has nothing to do with the then impending strike, adding that this was due to “NPA sightings” in the Lepanto area, which encompasses the villages of Sapid and Cabitin. Mankayan lies within the boundary of Ilocos Sur and Mt. Province.

Lepanto women and children earlier staged a march-rally to support the workers’ demands.

The picket was set up at 5:30 am last June 2 in Nayak, Tubo, Buaki, Level 900, and Mill Site.

Chronology of events

The ground rules for the CBA negotiations started as early as November last year. The first meeting happened last February 18 and a deadlock was reached in a meeting last April 2.

At that time, the management offered a P3,000 ($55.06) lump sum for the first year, P13 ($0.24) daily wage increase in the second year, and P15 ($0.28) daily wage increase in the third year. The LEU then pushed for an increase in the daily wage amounting to P85 in the first, second and third year.

LEU filed a notice of strike (NOS) with the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) three days after (April 5). Two more conciliation meetings took place on April 5 and April 16. The LEU had its strike vote referendum (SVR) on April 20.

On May 10, the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) issued the AJ, citing that a strike would cripple the mining operations and the enhancement of the nation’s economic growth since “mining activities are indispensable to the national interest.” LEU received its copy of the AJ order on May 11.

“Just and legitimate” demands

Miners receive a basic pay of P340 ($6.24) and P260 ($4.77) in benefits, or P610 ($11.19) daily. This is not enough given the increase in prices of basic goods and services, said LEU President Ninian Lang-agan. He added that the P29-P29-P33 ($0.53-$0.53-$0.61) wage increase and the benefits demanded by their union are “just and legitimate.”

Lang-agan said that LCMCo will spend an additional P93,689,232 ($1.72 million) if their demand are met. (See Table)

The management’s proposed increase (P21-P26-P28, or $0.38-$0.48-$0.51) translates to P75,267,192 ($1.38 million) for three years, or P18,422,040 ($338,081.12) in “savings” for the company, the LEU claimed.

Share This Post