A march-rally led by the Lepanto Employees Union (LEU) belied the claims of the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (Lepanto) that 80 percent of the strikers want to return to work.
BY Kim Quitasol and Abi Bengwayan
Posted by Bulatlat
MANKAYAN, Benguet – A march-rally led by the Lepanto Employees Union (LEU) belied the claims of the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (Lepanto) that 80 percent of the strikers want to return to work.
Over 3,000 workers, along with their wives and children, marched from the town center of Mankayan (348 kms north of Manila) to the company’s general office, also here in Mankayan, to condemn Lepanto’s statement claiming such, the arrest of four strikers and its recruitment of new workers despite unfinished negotiations with the union.
Mankayan farmers, members of the MAQUITACDG (Mankayan, Quirino, Tadian, Cervantes, Danggayan a Gunglo) and peasants from Mt. Province also joined the march-rally.
In a short program July 2, LEU president Ninian Lang-agan condemned Lepanto’s recruitment saying that it is taking place in the guise of “project employment.” Project workers are hired to work under a separate contract, which means their employment ends with their contracts.
However, according to Lang-agan, instead of terminating the project workers Lepanto actually hires them as permanent employees to replace the striking workers. He said some 80 “project employees” have already entered the mine site.
In an interview, Kilusang Mayo Uno (May First Movement or KMU-Cordillera) spokesperson James Tulipa said the ongoing recruitment shows Lepanto’s insincerity in the negotiations.
“By hiring new workers with the labor dispute still unsettled, management only intends to end the negotiations and abandon the issues the workers are raising. The workers will not allow this,” he said.
Lang-agan said that union officers are currently talking to Lepanto’s recruiters, explaining that they could not hire other mineworkers until the demands are settled. Recruitment has reportedly reached as far as Cebu, where Assistant Resident Manager Engr. Ernesto Laoagan formerly worked, particularly in Atlas Mining.
At around 2 a.m., July 2, 15 workers manning the Carlos Palanca Jr. Hall were arrested and detained by the police. The order reportedly came from company security head Col. Wilhelm Doromal. The Nayak gate then was forcibly opened by policemen and four more strikers were arrested and detained.
Eight hours later, local residents held an indignation rally in front of the municipal hall and demanded the immediate release of the workers. Union officers also held a dialogue with town officials. As of presstime, the workers have still not been released.
Like the dispersals carried out by the police on June 18 and 21, the arrests took place at dawn.
Recruitment of workers
Tulipa said LEU officials and the KMU spoke to the Cebuano recruits and explained to them their plight. It was then they found out that the recruited workers were not informed that the company is on strike.
As of June 30, said Tulipa, the Cebuano recruits number 27, while another group of 42 is expected to arrive, including 30 mineworkers from Philex Mines in Itogon, Benguet. Recruitment is also ongoing in Kalinga, Mt. Province, and Baguio City.
Twenty new recruits from the Visayas arrived in Mankayan on July 1, and were blocked at the Tubo gate when they tried to enter. Tulipa said the workers explained their situation to the Visayan recruits, brought them to the picketline and offered them food.
Also on July 1, Cebuano workers signed a paper with the striking workers that they were not at all harmed while at the picketline. The Cebuano recruits are now on their way home, KMU said.