Davide asks employees to call off strike plan

By Melissa Q. Cabahug, Michelle Joy L. Padayhag, Victor Anthony V. Silva |April 30,2015 - 12:05 AM

Instead of taking sides, Cebu Gov. Hilario J. Davide III yesterday asked protesting workers of Kepco-SPC Power Corp. to call off plans to stage a  strike.

Davide said he pleaded with some Kepco workers who visited him in his office at the Capitol yesterday.

“I pleaded with them to call off the strike. Many people will be affected. In the province, we are concerned because Kepco not only generates power for Cebu but also for some parts of Panay and Bohol,” he told reporters.

“The higher public interest here is the assurance that the power supply and service will not be prejudiced,” he said.

The governor said the Kepco workers asked him to intervene by sending a representative to a proposed committee that will reinvestigate the case of Lowell Sanchez, a supervisor who was recently terminated for allegedly using company facilities and time to organize the rank-and-file workers.

“This is an internal matter. It’s between the management and employees. Observer lang usa ta (We will just be observers),” Davide said.

The creation of the reinvestigation committee is among the demands of the Kepco supervisors’ union. It is proposed to be made up of representatives of the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB), management, and the workers’ rank-and-file and supervisory unions.

The workers’ groups have threatened to go on strike on May 1, a day after the notice of strike that they filed earlier this month will mature. They are accusing the management of unfair labor practice for not standardizing salaries and union busting for terminating the employment of Sanchez and Nelson Florita.

Another conciliation meeting is scheduled for today.

Edmundo Mirasol, director of the Regional Conciliation and Mediation Board, was hopeful that the conflict would be resolved.

“Let us pray to God that it will be resolved. Miracles happen. Our office will not give up on this matter,” he told reporters.

He said only the case of Sanchez has been tabled for discussion because Florita has found employment in  another company. The protesting workers are pushing for the reinstatement of Sanchez and granting of his back wages.

Kepco management has asked Labor Secretary Rosalinda D. Baldoz to assume jurisdiction over the dispute. Power generation is a “national interest” industry and any strike threat is serious especially when demand for power is high and reserves are thin, the company said.

Kepco supplies about a third of Cebu’s power generating capacity. Its 200-megawatt coal plant in Naga supplies power to utilities and electric cooperatives across the Visayas.

As both workers’ groups have not been recognized by management as bargaining agents, negotiations for collective bargaining agreements have not started.

Under the Labor Code, a legitimate workers’ group may file a notice of strike over unfair labor practice at least 15 days before the intended date of strike in the absence of a duly recognized bargaining representative.

Frances Villarino, legal counsel of the supervisory union, said they will try to convince the provincial government to sit in the proposed reinvestigation committee.

“At least there will be a hand from the province. We have representatives from management, labor, the federation and NCMB. We want the province to be included to seal the protection of labor,” she told reporters in a separate interview.

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