STRIKE: Lepanto miners mass
up on the first day of strike (left photo, above) while a striker watches
a fellow worker put up posters (above, right). Photos by Nordis
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)
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
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.
however, did not deter workers who were already planning to stage a
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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)
LEU Proposed Daily Wage Increase
LEU Proposed Daily
Number of Workdays
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.
In a statement, LEU
said that the management always claims that it is not earning, that is why
it could not afford to accept the union’s proposal.
gapu iti kinagaget tayo, nginmato iti 24% ti gross revenue ti kompanya. Nu
kitaen tayo, nakaganansya daytoy ti P2.4 billion idi 2003, ken P2.7
billion retained earnings idi 2004
(The truth is that due to our diligence, LCMCo’s gross revenue increased
by 24 percent. Its 2003 profit reached 2.4 billion, while its retained
earnings for 2004 amounted to P2.7 billion),” the LEU said in their
Villaluna said that
the company is still paying its loans, such as the fund needed to operate
Victoria Gold, which amounts to some $30 million.
LEU Auditor Ronald
Maslian said that the company has processed expansion applications in
Benguet (Mankayan, Kabayan, Suyo, Atok, Kapangan) and Nueva Vizcaya (Kayapa,
Bambang) since January 2005.
itamtambakda para expansion ket ling-et ti mangmangged. Kitaen da kuma
umuna ti sitwasyon ditoy sakbay dagita, ta maawatan mi met ti businessman
(Lepanto’s expansion is only made possible because of the workers’ efforts
and sacrifices. We hope that the company sees to the workers’ plight first
before venturing into business),” he said.
Services Manager Atty. Weldy Manlong said that the LCMCo is willing to
increase the wages as long as the company can afford it.
As regards benefits,
the LEU demands an increase of the monthly housing allowance from P200
($3.67) to P320 ($5.87) for workers who cannot be accommodated in the
The house rental
off-camp ranges from P500 ($9.18) to P800 ($14.68) monthly. The union also
asks that rest leave be granted to surface or above-ground workers.
Lastly, LEU is pushing for “strict computation” of the separation pay,
such that 35 days per year of service be multiplied by the rate per day.
Standing separation pay computations qualifies that 30 days per year of
service be computed for those who have worked with LCMCo for 15 years and
below, and 35 days for those who worked for 15 years or more.
As of June 3, LCMCo
proposes a daily wage hike of P21 ($0.38), P27 ($0.50) and P29 ($0.53) for
the first, second and third year of the CBA’s effectivity. It also
proposes 12 years of service for a worker to qualify for separation pay,
no housing allowance and selective rest leave. The union did not accept
In a related
development, the company banned the entry of rice into the picket line
which nearby communities pooled in support of the strike.
While briefing fellow
workers at the Tubo gate on June 2, Lang-agan stressed the need to
maintain unity until all demands are met. He also commended the women and
children of Lepanto for their support.
babbaket ken ubbing ti laban. Inrugi tayo metten, isunga aramiden tayo ken
itultuloy daytoy ta adda ti basaran daytoy wages. No saan tayo a maala
daytoy itatta, datayonto ti marigatan (Women and children have started
the fight. And since we have started it, let us sustain it because we have
enough basis to ask for increases. If we fail now, we will suffer
later.),” he said.
In a statement, LEU
said that the CBA is the union’s lifeline, where a worker’s benefits,
wages, and working conditions are ensured. “Daytoy ti esensya ti
pannaka-adda ti unyon tayo, ti panagpursige ti pagsay-atan dagiti
mangmangged (This is the essence of unionism, to ensure the welfare of
During the Lepanto
women’s march-rally on May 31, the company distributed notices warning the
workers of retrenchment if they joined the strike. The workers, however,
signed a unity statement, affirming their support until all their
proposals are accepted. Northern Dispatch / Bulatlat
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