By ACE ALEGRE
MANKAYAN, Benguet– Workers of the mining giant Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company filed a “notice of strike” Nov. 12 at the National Conciliation and Mediation Board in Baguio City.
The Lepanto Employees Union and the Lepanto Security Force Union, both affiliates of labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno decided to file the notice because of unresolved prolonged issues and problems, said Manuel Binhaon, president of the LEU.
The notice of strike was filed a few days before the upcoming annual celebration of the Philippine Mine Safety Week, the biggest gathering of mine industry players in the country, on November 15 in Baguio City where Lepanto is a leading participant.
The two labor unions accused Lepanto of unfair labor practice including gross violation of their collective bargaining agreement, which consists of unpaid wages and benefits and implementation of the work rotation scheme, Binhaon said.
The union busting issue includes termination of 140 employees while hiring new workers on contractual basis, Binhaon added.
LEU and the LSFU entered into, concluded, executed and signed their respective Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA) with the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMC) on April 25, 2008.
The CBA accordingly contained among others, wage increases, fringe benefits and other terms and conditions of employment to uplift the economic condition of the workers.
But in spite of the commitment of the parties to comply with the provisions of the said CBAs, the mining firm “reneged in its duty and failed and or refused to fulfill its obligation under the agreement,” Binhaon further said.
Knesto Godino, human resource manager and spokesperson of Lepanto claimed that the unions do not have grounds for staging a strike.
“ We are paying already, in fact our obligations including back wages and other backlogs at the SSS will be fully paid by the end of the year,” he said. Lepanto has shelled out a total of P44 million ($ 1 million) for these backwages, packages and other obligations, Godino said.
The LEU and the LSFU said the company owes its workers some P250 million ($5.7 million) in unpaid wages and un-remitted benefits.
Earlier, the LCMC fired at least 140 workers as it declared losses amounting to P1.9 million ($43 thousand) in their notice to the Department of Labor and Employment regarding the retrenchment.
Before the “notice of strike”, the unions filed with the NCMB-Cordillera “Preventive Mediation Cases”. However, the series of conciliation meetings failed.
A cool-off period of 15 days would have to pass and then a strike-vote would be conducted at the mine site to decide if the labor action would push through. But Godino claims only a few of the 1,400 workers at the mine site would vote in favor of the strike.
Godino, however, said that they would ask the labor department to intervene by way of an “assumption of jurisdiction” on the labor dispute. (Bulatlat.com)