THE incoming administration of President-elect President Rodrigo Duterte will have its first acid test soon in its declared war on illegal contractualization and destructive mining against one of the biggest and most influential mining companies in Palawan province in western Philippines.
Alan Tanjusay, policy advocacy officer of the Associated Labor Union (ALU) and spokesman for the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP)-Nagkakaisa disclosed on Thursday that the mining firm, Citinickel Mines Development Corp. (Citinickel), is owned by one of the contributors to the presidential campaign of outgoing President Benigno Aquino 3rd in 2010 and also to that of Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd in the just concluded May 9 polls.
Citinickel has mining operations in over 2,212 hectares of land in the towns of Narra and Sofronio Espanola in Palawan.
Tanjusay said around 200 miners have decided to hold a legal strike starting on June 10 at the mine site in Barangay Bato-Bato in Narra town for alleged contactualization, union busting and illegal termination of workers.
He added that the mine workers would be joined by local indigenous people, fishermen and farmers to express grave concern over Citinickel’s violations of environmental laws to the detriment of local agricultural farms and sea corrals.
“The members of the union have reached a decision to resort to stage a legal strike after the law-prescribed series of government labor arbiter-supervised mediation talks between the unionized mine workers and the management of Citinickel Mines and Development Corp. to regularize its contractual workers, return of illegally dismissed employees and for blatant attempts to bust the union have failed to reached any agreement last week,” Tanjusay said.
The workers also accused Citinickel of intentional and malicious withholding of the salaries and benefits of dismissed employees, reduction of employees’ salaries without prior notice and non-payment of separation and retirement pays to retired employees.
Citinickel started its operation in 2010.
It is owned by socialite Carolyn Tanchay, who, according to Tanjusay, also owns the high-end restaurant Dean and De Luca in New York in the United States, the 34-story The Ore Central building in The Fort in Taguig City (Metro Manila) and the Hardrock Aggregates.
Tanjusay claimed that it is open secret that Tanchay is a very close friend of celebrity and Kris Aquino–youngest sister of the President–and known to the community to be one of the campaign contributors in 2010 of the outgoing President, and as well as that of Roxas, who lost to Duterte by more than 6 million votes.
He said the workers also fear that Citinickel’s labor and environmental abuses are allegedly being ignored and tolerated by the local government unit because the sole hauling contractor for the company is allegedly owned by Narra Mayor Lucena Demaala.
“With this high-end political connection, the political and legal odds against the striking lowly workers are so great that a victory in this endeavor is surrounded by impossibility.
But this is all what they’ve got to fight for a decent job and a life of dignity,” Tanjusay noted.
The local indigenous people, fishermen and farmers expressed their support to the grievances of striking Citinickel workers.
They said they are going to join the strike to also express grave concern over Citinickel’s violations of environmental laws.
During the campaign, Duterte vowed to bring about needed change in the labor sector, particularly abolition of the prevalent practice of contractualization by big malls and other establishments, among other reforms.
It is estimated that more than half of the current 67.1 million Filipino workforce are contractual workers
Contractualization or “endo” (end of contract) or “555” is a work arrangement whereby workers are only hired for about 5 months or less than 6 months without security of tenure and monetary, non-monetary and social protection benefits.
Recently, Duterte warned mining companies against their destructive mining activities.