A call to support
the striking workers of Lepanto Mines
Lepanto Employees Union (LEU) went on strike on June 2 versus company
management as a result of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA)
deadlock on April 2. The said CBA will cover years 2004 to 2007.
The first bout
of negotiations took place on February 18, 2005, where the union
proposed P100-P100-P100 for the general wage increase. Here, the
Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company or Lepanto proposed only P0-P10-P11
for the first, second and third years, respectively. The union’s
CBA proposal also identifies that several be benefits be granted,
including separation pay, sick leave, and housing allowance. The
union has already lowered its wage demands to P29-P29-P33, still
management won’t budge.
On May 10,
Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) Secretary Patricia Sto.
Tomas issued an Assumption of Jurisdiction against the striking
workers. This was, of course, upon petition of company management.
The Labor Code provides that striking workers are compelled to return
to work upon the issuance of the AJ. The pursuance of any strike,
despite the order, makes it illegal and paves the way for the termination
of union officers.
is a violation of the constitutional right to strike or even freedom
of expression. The workers, however, were not discouraged. They
continue to man the five picketlines, even with the threat of dispersal
due to the return to work order issued on June 9 by DoLE Usec. Manuel
Since the AJ was issued, elements of the 54th Infantry Battalion
were deployed to Lepanto, including integrees from the paramilitary
group Cordillera Peoples’ Liberation Army (CPLA) and the Civilian
Armed Geographic Unit (CAFGU).
Management has also issued termination notices to union officials.
The greed that gold built
Lepanto is one of the biggest gold producer in the country and one
of the leading gold producers in Asia. Its mining operations now
encompass 4,621 hectares of Mankayan land. This expanse of land
covers Lepanto’s 297 mining claims, covering the villages
of Paco, Sapid, Poblacion, Colalo, Cabiten, Bulalacao, Tabeo and
Suyoc. Lepanto also has two timber/logging concessions in Benguet
province and Ilocos region, which operates over 6,320 hectares.
Their concessions were temporarily halted due to the government’s
total log ban campaign.
also the country’s leading exporter of copper and silver.
The discovery of the Far Southeast Gold Ore Body in 1980 and the
Victoria Gold Ore Body boosted its gold production in 1995. Mineral
extraction at the Victoria and Teresa ore bodies is nearing completion.
The company contributions and payments when these are regularly
deducted from their salaries. Thus, their salary loans are also
denied. They cannot even loan from their cooperative since management
has not been remitting the workers’ salary deductions that
was supposed to cover those loans.
lives are endangered, Lepanto has managed to sustain the luxurious
lifestyle of its managers and BoD at the expense of the workers
who make do with their meager wages. The company’s annual
financial reports reveal that members of the BoD like Felipe U.
Yap earned P18.3 million for the year 2004 with additional P1.5
million for his 13th month pay.
To think that the union’s CBA proposal only amount to P93,689,232,
which is only 4.7% of the company’s retained earnings in 2004.
were also installed in gates and roads leading to the mine portals
and communities. Black propaganda against militant groups supporting
the union is also being circulated, while surveillance is also ongoing.
For some time, water supply leading to the bunkhouses has been cut.
Lepanto’s Resident Manager Augusto Villaluna has made a derogatory
statement against the Igorot workers. (“Mga unggoy at patay
gutom ang mga Igorot na mga iyan”)
of life and limb
The mineworkers are exposed to dust, smoke, falling rocks and boulders,
intense vibrations and loud blasts. There were numerous reported
fatal accidents among the mineworkers especially those in the underground
operations, manifesting unsafe mining practices in Lepanto.
They work for
8 hours according to their calendared shift. (There are 3 shifts
in the workplace: 1st shift from 11 PM TO 7 AM; 2nd shift from 7
AM to 3 PM, and 3rd shift from 3 PM to 11 PM). They have staggered
rest days every week.
daily pay is P340. In monetary terms, the benefits per worker amount
to P260, which is why the company reports the daily wage at P610/day.
Then again, the benefits, like allowances and rubber boots, are
not given daily but once a month or a year only. The National Coordinating
Board and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA)
report that in the Cordillera region, a family of 6 needs at least
P573 to survive daily. How could decent survival possibly be in
this exploitative state of affairs? The value of the peso continues
to slide, with only 53 centavos being the real worth of a peso,
according to the research group IBON databank foundation.
Despite the harassment and dissuasion, the workers still stand on
their ground. With grim determination to finish what they started,
the union members are always on the courageous defense and militant
offense in staging the strike to fight for their democratic rights.
They have proven that from their unity in their February 2003 strike
which they maintained for a month that they can gain significant
achievements. Now, they are doing it again to push for a justified
and reasonable CBA.
Now, your support to their struggle will truly increase their will
and boost to their morale. Financial assistance from you/your organization,
aside from the physical and moral help which is already abound and
is still very welcome, would be very much appreciated. In the early
days of the strike, the workers sustained the picket lines by relying
on themselves. But their food supplies and finances cannot last
as they were as days go by. Your help will support them in many
please call (O74) 443-8104
your donations to:
Cordillera Labor Center
111 Agpaoa Bldg.
Upper Gen. Luna Rd, Baguio City
SUPPORT THE STRIKE OF THE LEPANTO MINEWORKERS!
UPHOLD THE WORKERS’ STRUGGLE FOR DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS!
CARRY ON THE ADVANCEMENT OF GENUINE AND MILITANT UNIONISM!