Unknown to many, when the nation may have been resting, Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz was awake the whole night of Friday, 1 May, in Cebu conciliating and mediating the labor dispute between Korea Electric Power Corporation-Salcon Power Corporation (KEPCO-SPC) and its union, Kepco Employees Association-Workers Solidarity Network. In Cebu where she spent Labor Day festivities with President Benigno S. Aquino III, Baldoz was tasked by the President to personally mediate the dispute after the union threatened a strike, which could have debilitating effects to the Central Visayas economy. The 200-megawatt KEPCO-KSPC power complex provides power to almost all the Central Visayas grid covering the islands of Panay, Negros, Cebu, and Leyte. The marathon, 11-hour conciliation-mediation, started at 5:00 p.m. and ended the following day, also at 5:00 a.m. of 2 May, with a settlement that eliminated the threat of a strike. The dispute begun when the power company, based in Naga, Cebu, dismissed Lowell Sanchez, president of the nascent Kepco Cebu Supervisors Association, also aligned with the Workers’ Solidarity Network, for allegedly helping organize the Kepco Employees Association-Workers Solidarity Network, which the company claimed was a violation of company rules and regulations. The rank-and-file union, as well as the supervisors’ union, each filed a notice of strike as the company hedged in its position. The cooling off period of the strike bans under the Labor Code ended on 30 April and the unions could have gone on paralyzing strikes on Labor Day if Baldoz had not intervened. “The repercussion of two labor strikes in a strategic industry like power is unimaginable. In the DOLE where sustenance and maintenance of industrial peace is utmost priority, we will do the best that we can do within our ability to bridge workplace differences between workers and management in an amicable way,” said Baldoz last Friday evening. The settlement of the KEPCO-SPC labor dispute, Baldoz said, is a demonstration of the power of conciliation-mediation and social dialogue. “I highly commend the union and the management for their willingness to join the DOLE in this process which resulted to a win-win situation. The settlement agreement is good for the workers; it was good for the management. There were no losers; only winners in the settlement,” she said after the agreement was arrived at. During the night-long conciliation-mediation, Baldoz had to talk to the union officers and the management, transferring from one meeting place to another at the JCenter Mall in Mandaue City, oblivious of the night activities outside. The highlight of the settlement was the re-opening of the investigation on the charges against union president Sanchez; the continued payment of Mr. Sanchez’s salary and his other benefits pending the final outcome of the investigation; review of company rules and regulations to which the union may propose revisions within 60 days after the settlement agreement; and management’s commitment to provide the rank-and-file employees a copy of the company’s rules and regulations. “Both parties agreed that should the re-investigation committee decide not to dismiss Mr. Snachez, he will be paid his salary during his preventive suspension. Both parties also agreed that the management will carefully review and evaluate the written explanations of other union officers and members with individual charges towards a fair, just, and reasonable resolution of their cases, also within 60 days from the signing of the settlement agreement. As to Mr. Snachez’s case, he will be entitled to the assistance of a lawyer of his choice or a representative of the Workers’ Solidarity Network during the re-investigation, which should be concluded within 60 days from the signing of the settlement agreement. The Cebu Provincial government, NCMB, and Workers’ Solidarity Network will be allowed to send one observer each to the re-investigation committee to be constituted by the KEPCO-SPC president pursuant to company rules and regulations. As a result of the settlement, the two notices of strike were deemed settled. “I am happy that both parties arrived at this amicable solution,” Baldoz said, adding that the unions and management should already start building a harmonious and productive relationship from the settlements, sans animosity and ill-will. Cebu Governor Hilario ‘Junjun’ Davide was very thankful to Secretary Baldoz for helping settle the dispute. In a text message, he said: “Thank you very much, Secretary, for your intervention in the KEPCO case. The Cebuanos are grateful to you for your efforts at bringing the parties to an agreement. God bless you.” Likewise, the union and management were very appreciative of what Secretary Baldoz did to settle the dispute. “We are thankful that the President and Secretary Baldoz intervened. She didn’t go home until an agreement was signed,” said Jose Tomungha, one of the union leaders. END

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