Mine Workers Affected by Global Crisis

Mine workers are starting to feel the effects of the global financial crisis. The Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company has begun implementing a work rotation scheme. Worse, workers could not avail of loans because the company did not remit to the proper agencies the contributions paid by the workers.

Northern Dispatch
Posted by Bulatlat

MANKAYAN, Benguet (263 kms. north of Manila) – Mine workers here are starting to feel the effects of the global financial crisis. The Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company has begun implementing a work rotation scheme.

All departments are being subjected to the new work program, which cuts down workers’ working days from 26 to ten, Manuel B. Binhaon Jr. President of the Lepanto Employees Union (LEU) told delegates to the Fourth General Assembly of Mankayan, Quirino, Tadian, Cervantes Dangayan a Gunglo (Maquitacdg) in Barangay Bulalacao, here on November 30.

The mine department would have a ten-day work schedule; surface workers are to work for 15 days, while those in the mill are allowed to work for 20 days.

“If the rest day and holiday fall within the 15-day work period, a worker has only 13 days to work,” Tony Sulang, union treasurer disclosed.

Binhaon said the reduced work scheme started in November and is expected to be in force until July.

For Sulang and other union officers, the no-work days give them enough time to look into union affairs. They see the new work scheme as a union-busting technique employed by the company to rid itself of genuine trade unionism.

Ordinary mine workers, however, find the time out from the mines to look for odd jobs elsewhere, especially in lowland rice farms to augment their reduced income.

“Once they get more stable and better-paying jobs, workers do not return to work until they are considered absent without leave and eventually terminated,” Sulang said.

Binhaon observed that many college students from Mankayan did not enroll this semester because of the lack of income of workers and their families.

Besides the new scheme, Lepanto workers get their pay in two to three installments, usually receiving only P1,000 or $20.29 (based on peso-dollar exchange rate of $1: P49.289) to P1,500 or $30.43 on the first installment. They could not avail of Social Security Systems (SSS) loans because Lepanto has not remitted some P60 million ($1,217,310) in SSS premiums collected from the workers since 2000.

They could not avail of rice loans either, because similarly, the company has not remitted P2 million ($40,577) in rice loan payments it has collected from workers.

“Uray coop, awan ti mautang,” (We could not avail of cooperative loans), due to the company’s failure to remit cooperative payments totaling some P8 million ($162,308). according to Binhaon.

The union is presently gathering evidence regarding the non-remittance of the contributions paid by the workers by the company for the immediate filing of charges.

Meanwhile, in another interview, lawyer Sixto Rodriguez, assistant regional director of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) said it is the management’s prerogative to implement the work rotation scheme. He said, however, that it has to be approved by the labor department before it could be imposed.

“It should not be used to terminate or force workers to resign,” Rodriguez said. Northern Dispatch/Posted by Bulatlat.com

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