Lepanto Labor Row, Far
A multipartite meeting
involving the striking union, Lepanto management, local government and
labor officials, coupled with several pre-dawn dispersal operations,
failed to weaken workers’ resolve to push for their demands.
BY Lyn V. Ramo and Abigail T. Bengwayan
Posted by Bulatlat
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet
– The labor dispute in the Lepanto Mines in Mankayan town is far from over
despite the third multipartite negotiations with Benguet Gov. Borromeo
Melchor, the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) and the
Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) at the governor’s office on June
remain intact despite open ingress and egress and workers remain steadfast
not to return to work, defying and earlier Return-to-Work Order by DoLE
Undersecretary Manuel Imson.
auditor and spokesperson of the Lepanto Employees Union (LEU) said, “Saan
pay a nalpas ti negosasyon” (The negotiations are far from over) after
the union and management arrived at tactical agreements here.
While leaders of the
LEU and the management of the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMCo)
agreed to adhere to some points already reached at the second negotiation
in Mankayan on June 21, no talks have been held to address the issues for
which the strike was launched.
In a joint
manifestation, the parties specifically agreed to open Gates 1, 3, and 4,
Tubo, Nayak and Buaki for union officers to freely consult and coordinate
with their members, subject to security procedures. They also agreed that
management is free to convince workers to return to work while the union
will also have the freedom to persuade workers not to enter the
workplace. Likewise, there will be a status quo at the picket lines and
that the parties shall not use any intimidation, harassment or
misrepresentation in convincing union members relating to the issues
Ninian Lang-agan, LEU
president, asked that a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) be drawn up between
the union and the company before going back to the negotiation on wages
and deadlock issues. He said there should be an atmosphere of peace when
the negotiations resume and the labor dispute finally settled.
At the opening of the
negotiations, Labor Regional Director Jalilo de la Torre offered to submit
to voluntary arbitration the termination of 75 LEU members including
officers and their reinstatement in the payroll. Since the multipartite
body did not agree, De la Torre asked them to submit their respective
positions until 5 p.m. on June 24. He said, however, that the DoLE
secretary’s order has settled the issue on wages on June 9. DoLE
Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas ordered P25-P27-P29 against LEU’s
P29-P29-P33 and Lepanto’s P21-P26-P28.
LEU rejected the
proposed wage settlement and defied DoLE’s return-to-work order. In a
proposed MoA read by the union’s legal counsel, LEU demanded, among
others, that management consider, recall or withdraw the notice of
termination it issued on June 11 and that Lepanto consider all members
reinstated while negotiation on the increase in wages and other benefits
is ongoing. The officers said they would not report for work unless
management assured them that no retaliatory action would be made against
them and their members.
LEU also assailed
Lepanto’s move at hiring new workers while the union is on strike and
negotiations are underway. Lepanto allegedly announced that it needed
miners and reportedly, recruits Philex retrenched workers into its
representatives, legal counsel Weldy Manlong and Assistant Resident
Manager Ernesto Laoagan said they do not want to reinstate the dismissed
strikers and wanted them to “pay for the consequences of their action” by
filing cases in appropriate courts. They also demanded the lifting of the
DoLE’s De la Torre,
however, said that the legality of the strike might be threshed out in
another forum, reminding Lepanto that National Labor Relations Commission
(NLRC) has its hands full with thousands of labor cases up for
settlement. He said it would take a long time before it could decide on
the cases. He convinced management to soften its position.
The union wants an
assurance that issues are settled with finality on the negotiating table
and asked that Lepanto’s chief operating officer or its president attend
representatives said they will consult the chairman and members of the
Board on the issue.
Laoagan appealed to
the workers to lift the strike and return to work so Lepanto could pay its
obligations. He said the National Power Corporation (NPC) has served its
statement of account for unpaid electric bills.
labor officials to visit the picket lines even as De la Torre agreed to
take the issues directly to the general membership of the union and the
owners of the company. He said LCMCo is on a black propaganda blitz
informing workers that the negotiations are over and convincing them to
return to work.
Tension at the
picketlines heightened after the police dispersal on June 18, 20 and 21,
led by PNP’s Col. Ernesto Gaab and the company security force, or the
Reaction Force under Col. Wilhelm Doromal in the Tubo and Nayak picket
lines. Most of the dispersals were carried out in the dark, just before
According to the
Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU)-Cordillera, two miners were injured when the
company’s security men forced open part of the Tubo gate to unload
supplies brought by a six-wheeler truck last June 18, 3 a.m. Mauricio
Cadangen and Lolito Onio were among the miners who blocked the gate.
Doromal struck Cadangen in the wrist with a rattan stick. Onio was
reportedly hit on his right knee by Doromal’s men.
On June 20 at around
2:30 a.m., workers blocked the way of policemen escorting a company truck
toward the Nayak picket line. KMU said the police pushed the strikers and
attempted to handcuff miner Artemio Tictic. Tictic was also hit in the
hand with the handcuffs and kicked. After the scuffle, another miner,
Denver Tictic, reported his cellphone as stolen. Meanwhile, Luvina Tictic,
who tried to pacify the policemen, was hit with a rattan stick in the
The following day at
4 a.m., over 200 policemen, armed with M16 and M14 rifles, surrounded the
strikers at the Tubo gate and started dismantling the picket area.
Makeshift tents, banners, and kitchen utensils were confiscated.
Prescilla Dilem of
Timpuyog dagiti Babbai iti Minas ti Lepanto (TBML) said that one of the
policemen tried to empty one sack of rice into the ground. Other food
supplies were scattered, she added. The miners’ wives have been helping
man the shift since the strike took off on June 2.
The victims filed
complaints at the municipal hall. Union officers condemned the manner by
which the dispersal was done.
Maslian said PNP’s
actions made it very clear that it is siding with the company.
has reportedly filed criminal charges against the LEU and claimed some 80
percent of the workforce has reported back to work.
“That (filing of
case) is only a threat. They say they intend to close the mines if we
don’t return to work. That is impossible since they have applied for
expansion of operations. Investors are already on the way,” he said.
On June 23, while
union officers were in a dialogue with Melchor and representatives of the
NCMB, DoLE and Lepanto, Doromal and his men reportedly went to the picket
lines and announced that the negotiation was over and union officers had
already given in to management.
The management also
distributed an open letter to the four picket lines on June 23, accusing
union officers of misinforming the members, even questioning their
According to a KMU
press release also on June 23, the Lepanto management continues to hold
meetings to persuade miners’ wives to convince their husbands to return to
Junita Farrong of
TBML however stressed that the miners’ families will continue to support
the workers until all demands are addressed. “Sisasagana kami nga
ituloy daytoy strike” (We are determined to continue with the strike),
she said. With reports from Aldwin Quitasol / Northern Dispatch /
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