The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Thursday urged members of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU) to go back to work while their motion for reconsideration is being acted upon.

The DOLE had already ordered the CAT management to readmit the striking workers without retaliatory action in its resolution issued last week.

The CATLU filed its motion for reconsideration last Wednesday after the DOLE issued its decision last week.

“I urge the striking workers to follow the rule of law. In that way, we can restore peace and harmony at the Hacienda while we are resolving the motion for reconsideration,” Labor and Employment Secretary Patricia A. Sto. Tomas said.

Despite the DOLE decision last week, striking workers reportedly continue on staging the strike with at least 155 people, mostly sympathizers, manning the 12 gates of the Hacienda Luisita. About 200-300 people were also reported to have picketed the Tarlac City Hall.

Many workers who wanted to report back to work were reportedly barred from entering the establishment by the striking workers.

Sto. Tomas said workers who went on strike and would like to return to work should be accepted by the CAT management.

Last November 6, 2004, 83 out of CAT’s total workforce of about 700 went on strike. Their numbers, however, grew when they were joined by sympathizers.

The DOLE issued its resolution last January 14 ordering the CAT management to immediately pay each covered employee of a one-time lump sum of P12,500 on top of the P15.00 per day adjustments on their salaries covering the fourth and fifth years of their collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

The CAT management was also directed to pay its workers of their unpaid salaries for six months retroactive to July 1, 2004, when the fourth and fifth years of the CBA was supposed to take effect.

On the other hand, CATLU members who participated in the strike were ordered to report back to work within five days from the time the parties received their copies of the decision and management should immediately accept the striking union members without retaliatory action. The five-day period ended Thursday.

In the same resolution, DOLE ordered the termination of the CATLU officers for their failure to observe the mandatory requirements before proceeding with the strike.

The Labor Code (Articles 263 and 264) provides that for one to conduct a valid strike, there must be a notice of strike filed with the DOLE 30 days before the intended date of mass action or 15 days in case of unfair labor practice.

Also, there must be a strike vote done by secret ballot proving that the action has been approved by a majority of the total union membership and results of which must be submitted to the DOLE at least seven days before the intended strike.

Except for the filing of a notice of strike, the CATLU did not comply with other requirements, prompting the DOLE to declare the strike as illegal.

Union members were spared from being axed because of the difference in the level of their responsibility vis-a-vis union officers.

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