Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. V,    No. 17      June 5 - 11, 2005      Quezon City, Philippines











Web Bulatlat


(We encourage readers to dialogue with us. Email us your letters complaints, corrections, clarifications, etc.)

Join Bulatlat's mailing list



(Email us your letters statements, press releases,  manifestos, etc.)



For turning the screws on hot issues, Bulatlat has been awarded the Golden Tornillo Award.

Iskandalo Cafe


Copyright 2004 Bulatlat



Miners Cripple Underground Operations at Lepanto

A deadlock in the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiations prompted the more than 1,000 workers of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMCo) to go on strike last June 2. Lepanto, the lone gold producer in the country, earned around P2.7 billion in 2004 alone. The workers’ demand for a wage increase will only cost the company around P94 million in three years.

Northern Dispatch

Posted by Bulatlat

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) negotiations.

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 $0.51).

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.

This development, however, did not deter workers who were already planning to stage a strike.

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.

However, Villaluna 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. Province.

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.

Chronology of events

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 April 20.

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.

“Just and legitimate” demands

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) 

Table 1.
LEU Proposed Daily Wage Increase

LEU Proposed Daily Wage Increase

Number of Workdays per Month

of Months

of Workers

per Year

P29 (1st year)





P29 (2nd year)





P33 (3rd year)










Source: LEU

The management’s 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.

“Kinaagpayso na, 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 statement.

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.

Dayta 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.

Administrative 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 company’s bunkhouses. 

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 the offer. 

In a related development, the company banned the entry of rice into the picket line which nearby communities pooled in support of the strike.

“Inggana agballigi”

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.

Inrugi dagiti 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 its members).”

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        




© 2004 Bulatlat  Alipato Publications

Permission is granted to reprint or redistribute this article, provided its author/s and Bulatlat are properly credited and notified.