Restive

Workers’ strike looms at N. Vizcaya mining site

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–Workers of a large-scale mining project in upland Kasibu town here are set to go on strike, following a deadlock in their negotiations with the mining company over a number of wage-related demands.

On Monday, members of the Pun-Oh-Ohhaan Hi Kiphodan labor union (Kiphodan) cast their votes on whether or not they would launch a work stoppage and force their employer, mining firm OceanaGold Philippines, Inc. to address their grievances.

Kiphodan consists of about 80 workers and employees of the gold-copper project in Didipio, which is operated by OceanaGold, an Australian company.

“We are left with no choice but to go on strike. We tried to come to terms with the company but they would not heed our demands,” said Wendy Nicano, union president.Image

The impending labor strike comes on the heels of three failed negotiations between union officers and the company for the past five weeks, triggered by the workers’ filing of a notice to strike with the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) on Dec. 10.

According to Nicano, OceanaGold has refused to heed the same demands that workers have been airing since the company went into full commercial operations in Didipio in April 2013.

Union members have been complaining about the supposed meager pay that they have been getting from the company, and the “discriminatory” scheme of benefits among its employees, especially against locals.

They have also been protesting the alleged harassment being waged by OceanaGold officials against union officers and sympathizers, including the supposedly unjust termination of Nicano and sanctions slapped against other officers for “petty” violations.

“(The workers) had attained small victories especially after the mayor ordered a shutdown of the mine last year. But in general, this company seems not intimidated by anything or anyone, and just imposes its will on the people,” she said.

This writer tried to reach OceanaGold officials for comment, but they declined. Ramoncito Gozar, senior vice president for communications and external affairs, said he has yet to receive his copy of the strike notice.

On Jan. 10, the union filed a notice with the Dole’s National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) to hold strike vote, following the lapse of the 30-day “cooling off” period from the day they filed the notice to strike.

For Monday’s vote, the workers, who are working round-the-clock mostly on an eight-hour shift, will be given the chance to cast their vote only during their breaks, said Estrella Rosal, NCMB Cagayan Valley director.

She said that since the talks began, the union and OceanaGold have managed to agree on a number of issues in the workers’ collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

“The only unresolved issues have to something to do with the economic provisions in the CBA, or those that pertain to salaries and wages,” the official said.

According to Rosal, the NCMB will continue to pursue negotiations and possible settlement between the parties, regardless of the result of Monday’s strike balloting.#

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