Lepanto Strike on Its 3rd Week
The mine workers’ strike
at Lepanto’s Mankayan mines is on its third week but negotiations between
company and the strikers on wage increases are on a deadlock.
By Abi T.
Posted by Bulatlat
MANKAYAN, Benguet –
Going on its third week of strike, the Lepanto Employees Union (LEU)
refuses to back down even with Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE)
Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas’ decision pegging the general wage increase
at P25-P27-P29. The workers’ demand for benefits, meanwhile, is at a
standstill except for the P10 increase in housing allowance as specified
The LEU remains
steadfast in its call for a P29-P29-P33 wage increase, benefits, and the
reinstatement of terminated union officers.
“Daytoy a desisyon
ket saan a mangsungbat kadagiti rason nu apay a napan kami nagstrike, saan
a nakabatay iti pudno a pangkasapulan mi a mangmangged nudiket pabor
daytoy iti kumpanya” (This [DoLE] decision does not resolve our
demands. In essence, it favors the mining company), LEU President Ninian
Lang-agan said June 16.
striker hangs placard
pushing workers' demands
PHOTO BY NORDIS
He added that the
union remains firm in its decision to go on strike.
said it could only afford a P21-P27-P29 wage hike because it is not
earning. Workers to refute this, saying that although Lepanto has the
means to expand its operations it refuses to increase workers’ wages.
Union and management
representatives met on June 16 in the afternoon upon the latter’s request
to negotiate, but the workers stood their ground.
Lang-agan called on
his fellow workers to intensify their strike for just wages and benefits.
“Tiempo na itatta,
daytoy dawdawten tayo a nayon a ganar. Ket patibkeren tayo garud daytoy a
laban ta ammo tayo daytoy dawdawaten tayo” (This is the time for our
call for just wages and benefits. But we should be more determined to push
for our demand because it is just), Lang-agan said before the miners at
Lang-agan said that
the company is doing everything it can to break the union’s solidarity.
amin tapno mangburak ti panagkaykaysa tayo. Saan tayo koma nga
agpa-allilaw kadagiti alok ti kumpanya” (The company is so desperate
that it has resorted to breaking up our unity. But let us not allow this.
Let us not be deceived), he told the LEU membership.
Tony Baggay of
Kilusang Mayo Uno – May 1st Movement)-Cordillera said that
company management is using union busting when it terminated union
officers and still pushed with its counter proposals. He added that Sto.
Tomas’ pronouncement is futile when it did not say anything about
reinstating the officers.
“Saan met laeng a
nakasurat ditoy desisyon nga awan koma ar-aramiden ti kumpanya a
retaliation kas ti panagikkat kadagiti nagstrike a mangmangged no malpas
ti welga ket agsubli kami iti trabaho” (It was not stated in this
decision that the company will not retaliate by dismissing workers who
participated in the strike upon returning to work), Lag-agan added.
disgust with the labor secretary’s decision since it was very close to the
sumensentro ti DoLE ditoy a gusot. Apay ngay nga isuda ket maka-kumpanya?”
(Why does the DoLE seem to be on the company’s side?), a miner at the
Nayak picketline asked.
spokesperson James Tulipa criticized Sto. Tomas’ decision, adding that
countless workers suffered due to her anti-worker decisions. Tulipa cited
the Hacienda Luisita massacre on Nov. 16 last year where brutal
dispersals caused the death of several workers due Sto. Tomas’ Assumption
of Jurisdiction (AJ) order.
Nordis also learned
from the workers that management has been going around convincing workers
with records of absences without leave to report to work. Otherwise, such
records would allegedly be used against them.
condemned company management for using the miners’ children to weaken
their determination to pursue the strike. On June 16, company staff
members delivered drawings of students from the Lepanto High School and
Lepanto Elementary School to picketers at the Tubo gate. The drawings
depicted the children’s ambitions, including essays regarding their
fathers as heroes.
The striking workers
described the drawings and essays as part of the company psywar to weaken
their determination to strike.
On June 16, company
representatives attempted to open the Tubo gate, but the workers did not
Just and equitable?
According to DoLE,
the mining industry was in a slump for the past 20 years due to “depressed
commodity prices,” including “political turmoil, and nationalistic
policies”. These factors consequently led to the foreign investors’ lack
of interest in the local mining industry, Sto. Tomas said in her decision.
research group IBON Foundation reports that gold, as a commodity, reacts
inversely to crisis such that in cases of global economic recession, the
demand for gold increases, and similarly in instances of wars and currency
turmoil. IBON clarifies that gold is the traditional store of value such
that investors buy golf when prospects of other assets are at risk.
Sto. Tomas’s order
further states that the company has plunged into a negative P12.735
million in 2003. Yet, the KMU-Cordillera reports that the company raked in
retained earnings amounting P2.573 billion in 2003.
LEU auditor Ronald
Maslian questioned the company’s incapacity to grant reasonable wages when
it could go expanding its operations, such as the three recent
Applications for Financial and Technical Assistance (AFTA). These AFTAs
covering 77,549 hectares in Benguet (AFTA 024); 81,000 hectares in Ifugao,
Nueva Vizcaya and Benguet (AFTA 025), and another 81,000 hectares in
Ilocos Sur and Abra (AFTA 026). AFTAs 025 and 026 were applied for under
Shipside Incorporated and DDCP, according to the Department of Environment
and Natural Resources (DENR).
Workers have been
preparing for possible dispersal since the DoLE’s return-to-work order on
June 9. Violent dispersal swept the Mill Site picketline in the 2003
strike, where two miners succumbed to cardiac arrest. Maslian recalled
then that the women were not spared when they were also dragged and hit by
local police who implemented the return to work order. With a report
from Aldwin Quitasol / Posted by Bulatlat
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