Miners’ benefits delayed: Lepanto Refuses to Recognize Union Leaders

Exactly one year after they were elected, officers of a miners’ union in Mankayan, Benguet have not yet been recognized by the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corp. (LCMCo), Asia’s top gold producer. As a result, the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between Lepanto and its workers remained unsigned by the company, more than a year after both sides agreed to settle the deadlock. This has delayed the expected benefits that the miners and their families fought for in a grueling three-month strike last year.

BY ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
Northern Dispatch
Posted by Bulatlat

BAGUIO CITY (246 kms. north of Manila) – Exactly one year after they were elected, officers of a miners’ union in Mankayan, Benguet have not yet been recognized by the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corp. (LCMCo), Asia’s top gold producer.

As a result, the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between Lepanto and its workers remained unsigned by the company, more than a year after both sides agreed to settle the deadlock.

This has delayed the expected benefits that the miners and their families fought for in a grueling three-month strike last year.

New officers

On Oct. 22 last year, the Lepanto Employees Union (LEU) elected new officers to replace an earlier set of officers who were fired by the company for leading the June-September 2005 miners’ strike.

Lepanto had invoked the right to fire union leaders who defied the “back-to-work” order of then Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas when she assumed jurisdiction of the labor dispute. The LEU had agreed to the termination of its key leaders as part of the strike’s settlement.

Most of the new officers, led by Christopher U. Bautista as chair, also supported the LEU strike and the union’s continued affiliation with the National Federation of Labor Unions (NAFLU). NAFLU is a member of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), a militant national trade union center.

Bautista said the losing party, which won only two seats on the union board, filed a case asking the Department of Labor and Employment-Cordillera Administrative Region (DoLE-CAR) to nullify the election results allegedly due to massive cheating.

On May 26 this year, the DoLE-CAR mediation arbiter dismissed the case. The mediation arbiter reasoned out that the issue should have first been referred to the union election committee and obtained a certification against forum shopping, which he said the petitioners failed to do.

Not ‘de-facto’ officers

In a phone interview, Bautista said that the petitioners, through their lawyer Lourdes Maita San Andres of the Domogan Law Office, appealed the decision to the national office of the Bureau of Labor Relations (BLR).

Bautista said management is invoking the pending BLR case to insist that “we are merely de-facto officers.”

The LEU chair clarified that he and other officers were elected fair and square, and took their oaths before the late Judge Thomas Rufino. He said the union is asking the BLR to immediately resolve the case by adopting the DoLE-CAR mediation arbiter decision.

Lepanto legal tactic

LEU members, who asked not to be named, said the petition to nullify the October 2005 election results is a legal tactic to disable the union and to delay the implementation of the new CBA.

Both union and management agreed on the CBA – the key issue in the 2005 Lepanto strike – but management has not signed it so far.

Interviewed by Nordis, several LEU members said that the Lepanto management uses the “non-recognition” tactic and delays the CBA signing as leverage to convince the union to disaffiliate from the militant KMU-NAFLU.

Most LEU officers however said they remain steadfast in their decision to remain as a KMU-NAFLU affiliate.

They also explained that the Labor Code allows them, should one year lapse without a duly-signed CBA, to re-submit the CBA after the notice of ratification of the majority of the members and after a five-day posting.

(Bulatlat.com)

Share This Post