SMI dialogue with workers set October 13

Fuentes said Sagittarius Mines, Inc. Workers Association (SWA) has not responded to the proposed schedule as of press time but vowed that if they won't agree, she would endorse the case to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for resolution.

"The law provides legal options to resolve the problem, such as via resolution in DOLE," she said.

Fuentes was in town to tape an episode of the Talk Mindanao television program.

Around a hundred workers of SMI grouped in four clusters last week to paralyze the firm's operations to demand regularization.

The workers padlocked the SMI main office in Tampakan, set up a barricade at Barangay Tablu which leads to the company's base camp, and staged protest actions in the villages of Lambayong and Liberty, site of SMI's ore farm.

SWA officials said around 200 people working in the company for the past two to three years have not been granted regular status. SMI, however, recently announced through local TV it is opening regular posts for 37 workers, mostly drivers.

But SWA asserted the management should first look at its current pool of workers to fill the posts.

Fuentes said it was clear to both parties that the existing workers should be priority.  "But from what I learned, that doesn't mean they will not apply for the job, they will have to pass through screening," she said.

Fuentes quoted SMI officials as saying, "having all things equal," there should be no reason to hire outsiders first before the present crop of workers.

The padlocks and roadblocks set up by disgruntled workers at the SMI main office in Tampakan, South Cotabato on October 1 have been removed following Thursday's meeting between SMI representatives and the acting mayor and vice mayor.

But the SWA, in a petition, wants the operations of SMI be suspended unless it “sufficiently” answers “the legitimate demand of the workers for regularization.”