Impoverished as they are after the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company imposed a reduced work scheme, three unions in Mankayan braved travel woes hoping to get what has been long due them. Instead, mineworkers and their wives went home empty-handed after security forces literally slammed the door of Lepanto’s Makati City office where they intended to confront management about their grievances.
BY LYN V. RAMO
Posted by Bulatlat
BAGUIO CITY (246 kms north of Manila) – Impoverished as they are after the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company imposed a reduced work scheme, three unions in Mankayan braved travel woes hoping to get what has been long due them.
Instead, mineworkers and their wives went home empty-handed after security forces literally slammed the door of Lepanto’s Makati City office where they intended to confront management about their grievances.
“Hindi humarap sa amin ang management” (The management didn’t face us), said Junibong Saldo, vice-chair of the Lepanto Employees Union (LEU). Despite a prior notice that the workers would go to Makati City to meet with management, Lepanto did not even lift a finger, he said.
LEU, Lepanto Security Forces Union (LSFU) and Lepanto Local Staff Union (LLoSU) represented more than 1,800 workers in the aborted dialog with management. All are local unions of the National Federation of Labor Unions (NAFLU) and the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement).
Going after Lepanto
With some children in tow, the miners and their wives wanted Lepanto to give workers the back-pay due them for the period Nov. 17, 2007 to March 2008 as agreed upon in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and the full payment of last year’s 13th-month pay, of which the company only paid one-third.
Last year, they called the attention of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE), urging the agency to implement a writ of execution for the Social Security System (SSS) premiums and loan payments which Lepanto did not remit and the delayed payroll, besides the clamored back-pay.
Similarly, they said Regional Director Ana Dione told them she could not enforce the writ of execution for the social security payments, back-wages and delayed payroll because “it is not an order.”
Collected but not remitted
Lepanto reportedly has been collecting more than P87 million ($1.86 million at the $1:P46.69 exchange rate of September 2008, when the said amount of collections was recorded) in social security premiums and loans but it has not remitted to the SSS, Pag-IBIG and Philhealth. “Workers could not get any loan nor hospitalization claim because of this,” said KMU chairman Elmer Labog.
Besides the P87 million as of September 2008, the company has also collected another P15 million ($308,388.15 at the March 6 exchange rate of $1:P48.64) for Pag-IBIG.
“It also failed to pay in full (the dues for) the rice bodega and the local cooperative, but it continues to deduct our debts from the payroll,” said Lon Baday, another union officer. Mineworkers used to turn to the rice and grocery cooperatives during hard times.
“Awanen ti pagtarayan mi ta maibus a dagus ti stock da ta bassit ti ibaybayad ti kumpanya” (We have no one to turn to these days because the stock runs out faster because they get little cash from the little that the company gives them), another official said.
Aside from the reduced work scheme since November last year, workers complain of not getting their pay envelopes on time. Lepanto reportedly pays its workers on a four-installment basis, giving the workers a hard time queuing every other day for a measly P600 to P1,000 ($12.34-20.56) each time.
According to Sammuel Rosito, LEU officer, the company has not fully paid the workers their wages for Jan. 21-31.
This is a violation of the CBA, which only allows for a four-day delay in the payroll.
Union officials, however, do not believe there is a problem of cash flow in the mines because the mineral production continuously exceeds the monthly target of 1,100 tons of ore. For the first quarter of 2009, the target has even increased to 1,200 tons in February and 1,600 tons in March, according to union officials.
“The helicopter comes three times a month,” a worker told this reporter. “Once to bring in the payroll, and twice to get the gold,” he elaborates, emphasizing that the company literally gets so much more than it pays.
KMU-Cordillera, with which the three unions have been affiliated, denounced the company and its policies, saying these oppress the miners and their dependents through unfair labor practices, gross CBA violations and an attempt at union-busting. (Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat)