BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya—Mining workers and officials of a foreign-owned mining project in upland Kasibu town welcomed the formation of a labor union, which its members hope would defend their rights and welfare.
On Thursday, rank-and-file workers and employees of OceanaGold Philippines Inc. at its project site in Barangay Didipio voted to organize themselves into a labor organization in a certification election held by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
Wendy Nicano, head of the Pun-Oh-Ohhaan Hi Kiphodan labor union (Kiphodan), said labor leaders were surprised by the response of the employees in voting to form the union.
“It’s really very humbling. We did not expect that the union has this much support from the workers,” Nicano said.
The union’s official name, she said, is an Ifugao phrase which means “unity toward development.”
Unofficial results showed that of the 185 OceanaGold employees, 89 voted for the union while 23 rejected its creation. Eight ballots were declared spoiled, Nicano said.
While labor officials in Nueva Vizcaya have yet to make the official announcement and release the results of the voting, the union’s formation was confirmed and welcomed by OceanaGold.
“OceanaGold already works with a number of labor unions at its operations in New Zealand and thus the company will look forward to also engaging in a constructive dialogue with the newly formed group in the coming weeks and months,” the company said in a statement sent to the Inquirer on Saturday.
The Australian firm, which operates the $220-million Didipio gold-copper project that will go into full operation this year, said it recognizes the rights of its employees to join a union.
“We share the same values and priorities of promoting a safe and equitable workplace for all of our workers worldwide,” the OceanaGold statement said.
Once confirmed, Kiphodan will be the first full-fledged labor organization from the mining industry in Nueva Vizcaya to be registered with the DOLE, labor officials said.
Nicano said they have started looking for a lawyer who would help them draft their proposals for a collective bargaining agreement with the company.
“We are very thankful that despite the delays and all the other obstacles that we had faced, this is how it turned out,” she said. Melvin Gascon, Inquirer Northern Luzon