MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Support the striking workers of Lepanto mines

Published by MAC on 2005-07-24


Support the Striking Workers of Lepanto Mines

24th July 2005

Cordillera Peoples Alliance

Summary:

The 1, 685-strong Lepanto Employees Union (LEU) went on strike on June 2 2005 versus company management as a result of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) deadlock on April 2. The union submitted its proposal for wage increase and other demand, and the negotiations started in November 2004. However, The management of Consolidated Mining Corporation (LCMCo) consistently refused to agree on the demands of the workers on the rate of salary increase, inspite of the adjustment already offered by the union.

In the ensuing negotiations, the workers will agree to the meagre wage increase offered by the management so that they can already get back to work. Yet the management insists on having the union leaders dismissed, as a condition for the end to the conflict. This is un-acceptable to the workers, as it was the company’s refusal to agree on their just demand which led to the strike. Inspite of the series of human rights violations committed against the striking workers such as series of forced dispersals of picket lines, arrest and detention of 23 workers, forced eviction from their homes, food and medical blockade, Lepanto management is the one accusing workers of human rights violations and threatened to file cases against them. The workers have remained steadfast in asserting their just demands and protecting the integrity of their union against the company’s threats of dismissing the union officers which id equivalent to union busting. This is now the core of the continuing just and legitimate strike of the workers.

We are therefore appealing for your support in this struggle for worker’s rights, genuine unionism, and against corporate greed and domination. Your support can be as follows:
a. letter of concern addressed to concerned officials (the names and addresses are given below)
b. statements of solidarity
c. material contributions (food, medicines, tents, blankets, etc)
d. financial support
e. visit to the striking workers and their families

Kindly send your statement of solidarity, and material support to the ff address:

Mr. Windel Bolinget
Cordillera Peoples Alliance
# 2 P Guevarra St. West Modern Aurora Hill,
2600 Baguio City, Philippines
Tel Nos: (063) (74) 442-2115; (063) (74) 304-4239
Fax: (063) (74) 443-7159
Email: cpa@cpaphils.org

For your financial support, kindly send it to the ff bank accounts of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance:

DOLLAR ACCOUNT
Name of Bank: Equitable PCI Bank
Bank Address: Equitable PCIBank Session Road Branch
National Life Building, Session Road
Baguio City, Philippines
Tel (074) 443-82-01
Routing Code: 02 -10 – 0001-8
Swift Code: PCIB PH MM

Bank Account Name: Cordillera Peoples Alliance
Bank Account Number: 5475-00676-5

PESO ACCOUNT
Name of Bank: Equitable PCIB
Bank Address: Equitable PCIBank Session Road Branch
National Life Building, Session Road
Baguio City, Philippines
Tel (074) 443-82-01
Bank Account Name: Cordillera Peoples Alliance
Bank Account No.: 1475 01283-2

(Below are details in relation to the Lepanto workers strike)

ACCOUNT:

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 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 (AJ) against the striking workers. 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.

On June 9, DoLE Usec.Manuel Imson issued a return to work order, which the workers once more defied. 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). For the past 2 months, several PNP units were deployed to Mankayan, including elements of the Police and Regional Mobile Groups.

Management has tried everything to break the workers’ and their families’ determination, but to no avail. In June, company security blocked the entry of food and medicine solicited for the workers and their families, including closing the company hospital. The following month was a trying period for the workers who were repeatedly dispersed at the picket lines at dawn. Some 23 workers were also arrested and detained without any clear violation of the law. Human rights lawyers and organizations facilitated the release of these workers.

The recent incident was the July 23 workers’ mobilization where the PNP created near-death circumstances when it opened fire several times at the rallyists entering Gate 3 who were to cap their activity at the Union Hall. Everyone was an open target at that time. The company ignored the negotiation efforts of the workers which they exhausted for nearly 2 hours, including the permit to rally approved by the local government unit of Mankayan.

Management is set to file cases against the workers and militant organizations supporting them for allegedly instigating the violence that took place at Gate 3.

At the course of the strike, workers found out that the company had not been remitting the workers’ Social Security System (SSS) payments since November 2004, which amounts to some P21 million.

Black propaganda against militant groups and communities supporting the workers continues. For some time, water supply leading to the bunkhouses has been cut. Now, the company has resorted to evicting the workers from their bunkhouses. Clearly, Lepanto is bent on crippling the workers’ basic needs to pressure them. Earlier, 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”)

The greed that gold built

Lepanto is one of the biggest gold producers in the country and one of the leading gold producers in Asia. Its mining operations now encompass 4,621 hectares of municipality of Mankayan, Benguet with 297 mining claims. Lepanto also has two timber/logging concessions in Benguet province and Ilocos region, which operates over 6,320 hectares. Lepanto is 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 earned P9, 551,877,600 from 1998 to 2003 in its Victoria operations.
While it claims not being able to increase its workers’ wages because it is not earning, Lepanto has applied for Financial and Technical Assistance Applications (FTAA) as of January 2005 in Benguet (77,549 has.), 81,000 has. encompassing Ifugao, Nueva Vizcaya and Benguet, and another 81,000 has. in Ilocos Sur and Abra.

A closer look at the company’s yearly accumulated income will really send one questioning the company’s claim that it is not earning. From the data specified in the minutes of the annual meeting of the LCMCo’s Board of Directors (BoD), the company accumulated retained earnings of P2,716,580,000 in 2002, P2,573,845,000 in 2003 and P2,586,768 in 2004. LCMCo has established major subsidiaries to further rake in superprofit ­ the Diamond Drilling Corp of the Phil. (DDCP), Diamond Boart Phil., Inc., Lepanto Investment and Development Corporation (LIDC), Shipside Inc., Far Southeast Gold Resources, Inc. The company is also back by big foreign investors for their gold hedging, financing and loans such as the NM Rothschild & Sons (Australia), Dredsner Bank (USA), Chemical Bank (USA), International Metal Company (USA), ASAP Company (USA), Nippon Mining (Japan), Conzinc Rio Tinto (Australia), and Ivanhoe Mines Ltd (Canada).

While workers’ and their families’ lives are at stake, Lepanto has managed to sustain the luxurious lifestyle of its managers and BoD at the expense of the workers who stretch 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. Lepanto claims it looses P6 million daily because of the paralyzed production, amounting to some P360 million for the past two months. If only it had given in to the workers CBA proposal, which only amounts to P93,689,232, which is only 4.7% of the company’s retained earnings in 2004, then such a predicament could have been avoided.

Matter 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.

A worker’s daily pay is P351. Additional benefits computed in monetary terms is P 260, which is why 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.

United and determined

Despite the harassment, intimidation and dissuasion, the workers remain steadfast in their struggle for just wages and benefits and in essence, right to life. The PNP’s violence has not taken them down. From their strike in February 2003, where most of the demands were won, including the reinstatement of officers, the union knows and believes that their aspirations can be achieved through collective action, and the basic fact that what they are fighting for is just, and legitimate. For the past two months, moral and material support from individuals, organizations, and sectors helped sustain the workers and their families.

Now, more than ever, with the worsening conditions between the company and the workers, your support to their struggle will truly increase their will and boost their morale. Financial and material 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 days go by. Your help will support them in many ways.

You may send your letters of appeal, open letters etc to the following addresses regarding the Lepanto Strike

Addresses:

Mr. Bryan Yap
President/ Chief Operating Officer
Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company
21st Flr., Lepanto Bldg.
8747 Paseo de Roxas
1226 City of Makati
Tel Nos. (02)815-9447
Fax: (632)812-0451, 810-5583
Email: mis@lepantomining.com

Felipe U. Yap
Chairman of the Board/
Chief Executive Officer
(address same as above) or
P.O. Box 1460
Makati Central Post Office
1254 City of Makati
Philippines

Hon. Angelo A. Reyes
Secretary
Department of Interior and Local Government
A Francisco Gold Condominum II
EDSA Cor. Mapagmahal St.
Diliman, Quezon City
Tel. Nos. (2) 925-0320-23
(2) 925-0032

Hon. Eduardo R. Soliman, Jr.
Undersecretary for Local Government
A Francisco Gold Condominium
EDSA Cor. Mapagmahal St.
Diliman, Quezon City
Tel (2) 925-0327/ 29
Fax: (2)925-0340

Hon. Patricia A. Sto. Tomas
Secretary Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)
7th Flr., DOLE Building
Intramuros, Manila
Email: osec@dole.gov.ph
Fax: (2)527-2121, (2)527-5523, 527-2118, 527-2131

Col. Villamor Bumanglag
Senior Superintendent
Provincial Police Office
Camp Dangwa, La Trinidad
Benguet

Hon. Purificacion C. Valera-Quisumbing
Chairperson
Commission on Human rights-Philippines
Tel nos. (02)928-5655, 926-6188, 929-0102
Email: drpvq@chr.gov.ph

Atty. Jocelyn B. Castillo
Director
Commission on Human Rights
Cordillera Administrative Region
3rd Flr. SSS, Baguio Branch Bldg.
Harrison Rd., Baguio City
Tel. (074)-619-9088, 619-9089

Engr. Augusto C. Villaluna
Senior Vice President/Resident Manager
Lepanto Mine Division- LMD
Lepanto, Mankayan, Benguet

Hermogenes E. Ebdane, Jr.
Deputy Director General
Camp Crame
Quezon City
Fax: (2) 722-5443
Tel. (2) 722-0902 or (2) 723-8108

Hon. Borromeo Melchor
Governor
Province of Benguet
La Trinidad Benguet

Jalilo O. De la Torre
OIC, Regional Director
#1 Cabinet Hills, Baguio City
Fax: (074)-443-5339, 442-2447

SUPPORT THE STRIKE OF THE LEPANTO MINEWORKERS! UPHOLD WORKERS’ GENIUNE UNIONISM! NO TO UNION BUSTING!
UPHOLD THE WORKERS’ STRUGGLE FOR DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS!
STOP HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS!

CORDILLERA PEOPLES ALLIANCE
# 2 P. Guevarra Street, West Modern Site
Aurora Hill, 2600 Baguio City, Philippines
Tel. No. +63-74-442-2115 or +63-74-304-4239
Fax No. +63-74-443-7159
Email: cpa@cpaphils.org
Website: www.cpaphils.org


Strikers storm compound of mining company

http://news.inq7.net/regions/index.php?index=1&story_id=44568

July 24, 2005

By Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer News Service

BAGUIO CITY - Striking workers, their families, and members of antimining groups stormed the compound of the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co. in Mankayan, Benguet on Saturday.

The 50 policemen assigned there by Cordillera police officials as a peacekeeping force failed to contain the crowd. The workers' strike at the LCMC started on June 2.

Lawyer Weldy Manlong, LCMC administrative services manager, said the police fired warning shots and clashed with the strikers using night sticks when the group turned violent, hurling rocks at policemen and destroying the mine's Gate 3 at about 11 a.m. Saturday.

KMU role

The Kilusang Mayo Uno claimed to have gathered at least 3,000 sympathizers who marched beside the union officials, although police and LCMC officials estimated the crowd at 1,500.

The protesters proceeded to the Lepanto Employees Union hall, where they started holding a vigil, reports said.

Manlong said a few policemen were hurt in the scuffle.

But Hague Mangaoang, one of 19 dismissed LEU officials, said no one was hurt in the confrontation.

"It became violent because the police did not want these people to enter peacefully and [hold a protest] rally. But tensions have died down and we are simply waiting for management to talk to us," Mangaoang said.

Operations have not been disrupted, Manlong said. He said 1,087 employees and supervisors, who returned to work two weeks ago upon the instructions of the Department of Labor and Employment, now operate Lepanto's underground mines and mill.

Another peacekeeping force of the Benguet police is stationed in Barangay Tubo, guarding another mine gate, and has not been ordered to reinforce the security forces at Gate 3, Manlong said.

Monitor

Chief Supt. Noe Wong, Cordillera police director, said he is monitoring the situation in Mankayan.

Mangaoang said the LEU staged a rally in front of the Mankayan town hall earlier Saturday to demand a dialogue with LCMC officials, who broke off negotiations with the union on July 10.

The strike started when the LCMC refused to give in to the union's P29 daily wage increase proposal during the regular round of talks for a new collective bargaining agreement.

Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas assumed jurisdiction over the dispute, and granted the workers a P25 pay increase on June 14, but the striking workers refused to accept the order until the LCMC agrees to reinstate their union leaders.

The workers defied a return to work order issued by labor officials on June 8.

"[Management] cannot accept the leaders back because they were the same people who started the strike in 2003. We want the law to apply [to the strike leaders]," Manlong said.

He said Sto. Tomas, on July 15, ordered the National Labor Relations Commission to resolve the union's demand to reinstate their leaders, but the LEU has yet to elevate its complaint to the NLRC.

Mangaoang said LEU preferred to discuss the remaining terms with LCMC officials, instead of through government arbitrators.

"We simply want a memorandum of understanding drafted regarding [our reinstatement] and the pursuit of other demands for the CBA," he said.


Lepanto workers sue mining firm, police

By Jane Cadalig, Sun.Star Baguio/Sunnex

Sunday, August 21, 2005

BAGUIO CITY -- The Lepanto Employees Union (LEU) Saturday filed criminal charges against the mining company and two others at the International People's Tribunal.

A report from the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU)-Cordillera said the union sued the Lepanto Consolidated and Mining Company (LCMC) management, the 1064th Provincial Mobile Group (PMG) of the Benguet Provincial Police Office (BPPO) headed by Superintendent Ernesto Gaab of the Task Force Lepanto and the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole).

The statement said the LEU sued Lepanto for its continuing refusal to recognize its laborers' rights.

The union accused the management of "stealing their Social Security System (SSS) contributions, payments of other loans and some of their monetary as well as non-monetary benefits."

The union added that the management denied their demands in their supposed 23rd collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and only offered minimal provisions.

LEU president Ninian Lang-agan said the management, instead of addressing the real issues on why workers went on strike, distributed notices of termination to the officers and members of LEU.

Lang-agan added the management headed by Resident Manager Augusto Villaluna, Asssitant Resident Manager Ernesto Laoagan and lawyer Weldy Manlong ordered the padlocking of the bunkhouses and quarters of the striking workers.

He added the company employed brute force through the hired security personnel and reaction force led by retired Army Colonel Wilhelm Doromal.

The LEU also filed criminal charges against members of the 1064th PMG of the Benguet police office for carrying out violent dispersals, intimidation and harassment against the striking workers.

LEU auditor and spokesperson Ronald Maslian claimed the PNP, under Gaab's command, "committed numerous police brutalities when they directly dispersed the workers in the picket lines and escorted the entrance of supplies and scab workers inside the picketed gates of the mines."

Leonida Tundagui of KMU-Cordillera said because of the issuance of such orders, struggling workers are always on the brink of uncertainty.

"Sto. Tomas' issuance of the order is simply a show of pro-company where she really favored always putting the workers aside," added Tundagui.

The International Peoples' Tribunal is manned by prominent international lawyers who advocate international peoples' legitimate struggles for their rights.

Meanwhile, the LCMC decided to enter into an amicable settlement with seven of its dismissed workers who filed an illegal dismissal case with the Regional Arbitration Branch-Cordillera of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC).

The workers earlier asked management to reconsider its decision to dismiss them. In their letter, they explained they did not participate in the illegal strike nor committed any prohibited acts.

The LCMC management said it decided to rehire the workers after evaluating their explanations and recognizing that they are still assets of the company.

Lepanto legal counsel Mark Maranes identified the rehired workers as David Joaquin, Ricardo Lumaggao, Arnold Bandoc, George Bayden, Andres Benbinen, Juanito Bawas and Modesto Bulatao.

Maranes said the seven are among the 229 employees who were served notices of dismissal.

Lepanto reiterated that it would not admit the 19 union officials who spearheaded an illegal strike, which reportedly crippled the firm's underground operations for more than two months already.

The company's top management earlier said the fate of these union officers would depend on how the NLRC would rule on the legality of their dismissal.

The multi-sectoral group in Mankayan, formed to come up with recommendations to help resolve the labor conflict that started June 2, proposed the reinstatement of the 19 officers.

But the LCMC said, "it cannot accede to the recommendations of the committee."

"The 19 union officers were the same individuals who went on illegal strike in 2003 and are clearly guilty of planning, leading and participating in an illegal strike today," management said.


Report from Anoj Munsayac, Women Workers Committee-Cordillera Labor Center

19th August 2005

Mankayan, Benguet- Exactly 5:00 at dawn on August 15,2005, more than 200 elements of the Philippine National Police led by Colonel Ernesto Ga-ab, Major Brent Madjako and Captain Richard Albon violently dispersed the workers, women and children at millsite picketline at Lepanto, Mankayan.

Using thick and long wooden-sticks, metal cylinders, hi-powered riffles and water cannons, 7 women are hurt, an old man and a boy were badly battered. A worker and woman named Fauto Pawi and Julieta Tangbawan were kicked by three PNP with hooded face and without nametags. LEU Board of Director Vicente Dilem was beaten by a hard wood, and also the LEU Secretary Julio Cawilan was arrested and handcuffed but was able to get free jump from the LCMC vehicle together with the other workers who were also arrested.

The PNP was about to escort the company’s supply of cyanide and steelballs used in processing the gold production to go inside the millsite of LCMC but it was held up by the picketers.

According to the Guidelines of Conduct of PNP/AFP during Stikes, Lockouts and Labor Disputes of the Department Of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the PNP should remain neutral and must not take side. The action of the PNP this morning shows that the PNP had been very instrumental to the Lepanto Consolidated Mining company. On the other side the PNP must serve to the exploited people and not to the exploiters.

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