Miners hit by global crisis

MANKAYAN, Benguet — Mine workers here start to feel the effects of the global financial crisis as Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company implements its work rotation scheme.

All departments would be subjected to the new work program which cuts down workers’ working days from 26 to 10, President Manuel B. Binhaon Jr. of the Lepanto Employees Union (LEU) told delegates to the 4th General Assembly of Mankayan, Quirino, Tadian, Cervantes Dangayan a Gunglo (Maquitacdg) in Barangay Bulalacao, here on November 30.

The mine department will be on a 10-day work, surface workers are to work for 15 days, while those in the mill are allowed to work for 20 days.

“If the rest day and holiday fall within the 15-day work period, a worker has only 13 days to work,” Tony Sulang, union treasurer disclosed.

Binhaon said the reduced work scheme started in November and is expected to be enforced until July.

For Sulang and other union officers, the no-work days give them enough time to look into union affairs. They see the new work scheme as a union-busting technique employed by the company to rid itself of the militant genuine trade unionism.

Ordinary mine workers, however, find the time out from the mines to look for odd jobs elsewhere, especially in lowland rice farms to earn for their family’s needs.

“Once they get more stable and better-paying jobs, workers do not return to work until they are considered absent without leave and eventually terminated,” Sulang clarified.

Binhaon observed that many college students from Mankayan did not enroll this semester because of the lack of income of workers and their families.

Besides the new scheme, Lepanto workers get their pay in two to three installments, usually receiving only P1,000 to P1,500 on the first installment. They could not avail of social security systems loans because Lepanto has not remitted some P60 million in SSS premiums collected from workers since 2000.

They could notavail of rice loans either, because similarly, the company has not remitted P2 million in rice loan payments it has collected from workers.

“Uray coop, awan ti mautang,” (We could not avail of cooperative loans), due to the company’s failure to remit coop payments totaling some P8 million, according to Binhaon.

The union is presently gathering evidence for the immediate filing of charges.

Meanwhile, in another interview, Atty. Sixto Rodriguez, assistant regional director of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) said it is management prerogative to implement the work rotation scheme. He said, however, it has to be approved by the labor department before it could be imposed.

“It should not be used to terminate or force workers to resign,” Rodriguez said. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorDis)

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