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June 27, 2005

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DoLE: Betraying the workers, coddling the employers

MANKAYAN, Benguet — In cases of struggle between labor and profit, it is not hard to understand why government institutions like the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) sides mostly with the more privileged entity. Such is the case at the Lepanto labor dispute, where the toiling workers are ensnared in situations instigated by the DoLE itself. But situations like these also prompt workers to strengthen their ranks, thus, all is not lost in their battle, as DoLE and company management perceives it to be.

Contrary to management’s claims, the negotiations are not over. And while DoLE takes part in these negotiations, it openly endorses Lepanto’s job recruitment, in the obvious attempt to dishearten the workers and break their determination to carry on with the strike. The recruitment takes place not only Mankayan even in Baguio City, such as in the office of the NBI, with the DoLE as the undersigned agency. That is stabbing the workers at the back.

Assistant Resident Manager Ernesto Laoagan even became an instant TV personality by appearing in stolen airtime from the GMA 7, making statements against the union officers. Laoagan attempts to break the union by creating intrigues to cause rift between the officers and members.

The June 25 march-rally here disproved company’ propaganda that some 80% of the workers already want to return to work. The 3,000-strong mobilization, with supporters from nearby provinces and communities, will be a living testament to it.

Lepanto’s Atty. Weldy Manlong made a mistake when he tried to argue with the workers’ statement that without the miners, there would be no LCMCo. Surely, technical people would ensure the technical aspects. Yet he misses out on the point that the miners are the production force, with the labor skills they have. Manlong threatens the workers of a closure if Lepanto gives in to the workers’ demands, having the gut to foresee that the company will suffer heavy losses. Yet the workers know better than be deceived by cheap talk. With the company’s expansion applications and investors, a closure in that context is not realistic — Lepanto is one of the leading gold producers in the world and in Southeast Asia.

While negotiations took place on June 25 between LEU and Lepanto at the governor’s office, company security chief Wilhelm Doromal went around the picketlines announcing that the negotiations are over and that the union officers have already given in to the management. Doromal also ordered his men to prevent union officials and members from going to the picketlines and delivering supplies during the negotiations some union officials and members going to visit and deliver food supplies to the their colleagues in the picket lines for no reasons.

At the same negotiation, company management refused LEU’s proposal that a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on the reinstatement of dismissed officers and members be entered into, including a commitment that Lepanto will not execute retaliatory actions after the strike. Here, a joint manifestation was reached, where
both parties agreed that the gates leading to the four picket lines at Tubo, Nayak, Buaki and Mill Site shall remain open for union officers to freely consult and coordinate with their members. It was also stated in the manifestation that both parties are free to convince and persuade union members who are willing or not to return to work.

It was also agreed that there should be no intimidation, harassment or misinterpretation in convincing union members relating to the issues involved. But as this was being negotiated, management personnel were already roaming around the workers’ bunkhouses and residences misinforming the workers and the people of Mankayan that the negotiation between the management and the union had arrived into a settlement and the strike is over.

In the face of the harassment and intimidation perpetrated by the management in connivance with the PNP under Col. Ernesto Gaab, the DoLE keeps mum about it. Instead of looking into the betterment of the much-aggrieved workers of Lepanto, DoLE, in the person of its Regional Director Jalilo de la Torre, upon the orders of DoLE Sec. Patricia Sto. Tomas blatantly sided with the company by issuing such return to work orders.

The LCMC, DOLE, PNP and the AFP are all but collaborating to suppress the workers’ struggle to pursue their just and legitimate rights. With this, they have earned the ire and condemnation not only of the people of Mankayan but other sectors aware of the basis of the workers’ strike.


For reference:
Nida Tundagui
Public Information Commission
Cordillera Labor Center

Published with financial contribution from the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation
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