Strikers storm compound of mining companyPublished by MAC on 2005-07-24
Strikers storm compound of mining company
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.
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.
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.