By ALDWIN QUITASOL
My friends, it is solidarity of labor we want. We do not want to find fault with each other, but to solidify our forces and say to each other: “We must be togther; our masters are joined together and we must do the same thing.” — Mother Jones
Mankayan folk must be so relieved after experiencing four elections in a year. Last May, they participated in the national and local elections for the country’s government officials. In the month of June, they saw the mineworkers of the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMCo) vote for their officers through a local election (LE).
Then last month, they took part in the barangay elections, and saw their neighbors who won and who lost. This month, they witnessed the recently concluded certification election (CE) of the mineworkers.
In this CE, the workers chose which union will be their sole and official representative in negotiating with the management regarding their rights and welfare. The winner will be the bargaining panel in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) containing the economic and non-economic demands of the union members.
In the Lepanto Mine Division of the LCMCo, the Lepanto Employees Union (LEU) which is affiliated with the National Federation of Labor Unions-Kilusang Mayo Uno (NAFLU-KMU) was contested by the Lepanto Rank-and-File Union (LRFEU) which is affiliated with the National Mine and Allied workers Union-International Federation of Chemical, Energy, and Mines General Workers Union (NAMAWU-ICEM). LEU won the elections over the LRFEU by a big difference. (See related story.)
After an exhausting campaign, including many mass meetings, mobile public addresses, motorcades, and listening to hearsays of workers who were paid to vote for the rival union, LEU officers and members can rest for maybe a few days.
Then they have to gear again for another kind of battle. They are going to face the management across the negotiating table for their 24th CBA. But there might be a hitch. The LRFEU, after losing the CE, manifested that they have the right to file an election protest against the results. What if such a protest was entertained and the 868 votes of LEU vs LRFEU’s 428 votes be questioned. Will the 24th CBA negotiation meet problems like what happened in the previous CBA? This CBA had been pending after the LCMCo management invoked the election protest filed by the losing candidates in a special LE in 2005, as a reason not to sign the said agreement.
The officers and members of LEU are now getting ready to deal with the challenges ahead to test their unity as a solid union. The next battle: the series of CBA negotiations between the LEU and the management. Again, Mankayan folks are watching for the outcome of the negotiations.
Congratulations to the youth and women, specially to the officers and members of the Tignayan dagiti Babbai iti Minasan a Lepanto (TBML), for a job well done – before, during and after the elections. They are the unsung heroes in the struggles of the workers through the years. Whatever situation the union faces in the future, the youth and women will always be there to offer their unsolicited support to their fathers and husbands in struggling to advance their welfare.#