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

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