Workers Defy Return-to-Work Order
Can the striking workers
at the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMCo) be blamed for defying
the labor department’s order for them to return to work? They have been on
strike since June 2 and despite the Benguet provincial government’s
intervention, the resolution seems unlikely in the near future as both
labor and management stick to their demands.
BY ABIGAIL T. BENGWAYAN
Posted by Bulatlat
BAGUIO CITY — The
Lepanto Employees Union (LEU) defied the Department of Labor and
Employment’s (DoLE) return-to-work order issued last June 9 after the
Benguet provincial government intervened in the negotiations between the
union and the Lepanto management.
The order was issued
by DoLE Undersecretary Manuel Imson and handed to DoLE Regional Director
Jalilo dela Torre.
BREAK: Lepanto workers
prepare to chew
betel nut at the picket line
PHOTO BY NORDIS
The strike marked its
11th day last June 12 (Independence Day) despite food and
medicine blockade in the picket lines and communities within Lepanto.
Management cut the water supply last June 6 but was restored three days
after, union officers said.
The DoLE order
deputizes the Philippine National Police (PNP) to enforce the
return-to-work order. The latter gives teeth to the Assumption of
Jurisdiction (AJ) order over the striking workers. The AJ order was issued
by DoLE Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas last May 10.
LEU Auditor Ronald
Maslian said that the workers have already defied the AJ order in the
first place. By doing this, he explained that they have defied all other
processes following DoLE’s AJ order. The union officers were issued
termination notices last June 3.
In the 2003 strike,
police dispersed the striking workers and two miners died in the process.
LEU President Ninian
Lang-agan said that police in full battle gear were already positioned
near the Nayak and Tubo picket lines.
In a separate
interview, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU)-Cordillera’s Nida Tundagui said that
the return-to-work order deprives the workers of their right to strike,
right to redress grievances and concerted action.
“Kapag sinunod ito
(order), wala nang saysay ang lahat ng pinaghirapan nila. Maging ang
esensya ng CBA ay mawawala na. Babalik lang sila sa dating working
conditions nila, kaya tama lang na hindi nila sinunod ang return to work
order dahil hindi na naman sila sumunod sa AJ order” (If they submit
to the return to work order, their past efforts will have gone to naught.
The essence of the CBA will be gone. They will go back to their old
working conditions, so it is only right that they defy the return to work
order since they defied the AJ order anyway.), she said.
Since the strike was
staged on June 2, management prohibited the entry of vehicles, including
tricycles and jeeps. Resident Manager Augusto Villaluna issued a June 8
memorandum ordering all vehicles entering the mine camp to ensure that “no
prohibited materials or unauthorized people enter the mine camp.”
Col. Wilhelm Doromal,
Security and Communications Services Department head, also released a
notice to Gate No. 3 security guards ordering them not allow the entry of
the LEU service vehicle until further notice.
Last May 31, two days
before the strike, Doromal banned water pump operator Zaldy Negradas from
transporting a half cavan of rice for his family at Barangay (village)
Sapid via Tubo gate at around 5:30 p.m.
When he explained
that the rice was for his family, Doromal allegedly started accusing
Negradas of “harassing the security.” The security chief also said to
Negradas “Nanghahamon ka ba? Naghahanap ka ba ng away?” (Are you
challenging me? Are you looking for trouble?) Doromal also accused
Negradas of abandonment of post, which the latter found puzzling.
Negradas filed a
harassment complaint at the Sapid Barangay Hall. Around midnight last May
31, Negradas said that several men under Doromal went looking for him at
their quarters near the Club House. Luckily, he went home that night.
Lang-agan added that
management accused them of holding seven Chinese investors hostage last
June 7. Lang-agan denied this.
“Haan mi met isuda
nga in-hostage. Immunegda idiay Tubo gate ken rumwar da kuma idiay Mill
Site. Ngem idi dumanon da ditoy Mill Site ket naka-padlock ta adda picket.
Nagnada metlaeng ditoy Level 900. Isunga awan ti in-hostage mi” (We
did not take anyone captive. The investors entered at Tubo gate and
intended to exit at Mill Site but the gate was locked due to the picket
line. They eventually exited through Level 900), he explained.
Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU)-Cordillera
Spokesperson James Tulipa added that the investors sought clearance from
the picket line command at Tubo gate before entering.
Tulipa himself was
accused by management of instigating the strike together with Art Malicdan
of the Cordillera Labor Center (CLC). Tulipa added that management called
the DoLE regional office and accused the striking workers of holding the
negotiations mediated by the Benguet province officials resulted in a
Gov. Borromeo Melchor
and DoLE’s Dela Torre proposed a salary increase of P25, P29 and P29
($0.45, $0.52 and $0.52, based on an exchange rate of P55.20 per U.S.
dollar) for the first, second and third year of the CBA’s effectivity. On
the other hand, the management, represented by lawyer Weldy Manlong, stuck
to their P21-P27-P29 ($0.38, $0.49 and $0.52) proposal.
union’s proposal was P29-P29-P33 ($0.52, $0.52 and $0.60) for the wage
increase. Benefits raised in the negotiations include housing allowance,
separation pay and rest day. During the first round of negotiations last
Feb. 18, the union proposed P100-P100-P100 ($1.81-$1.81-$1.81) while
management proposed P0-P10-P11 ($0-$0.18-$0.20). Bulatlat
PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION ■
© 2004 Bulatlat
Permission is granted to reprint or redistribute this article, provided
its author/s and Bulatlat are properly credited and notified.