Workers to Surigao cement firm: What’s the real status?

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/01 November)—Workers of the Filipino-owned Pacific Cement Company, Inc. (PACEMCO) are worried over their job tenure as the firm failed to resume operations for six months now.

Edwin Batac, president of PACEMCO’s Mamumuo Nagkahiusa, told MindaNews on Friday the company failed to disclose whether it will continue to operate or not.

The firm halted operations last May after the Surigao del Norte Electric Cooperative cut its power supply for unsettled obligations worth at least P25 million.

Batac said that last month, only 14 out of 165 rank and file and 16 out of 81 supervisory employees were given salaries out of their leave credits for October.

The company has a total of 343 employees who were in forced leave after the company stopped its operations, he added.

Batac scored the company for failing on its promise.

“The company promised us that operations will resume after a month of temporary shutdown. It’s almost since months this November 6 and the company has yet to disclose its status to the workers,” he said.

Batac, who has been working for 23 years now as company electrician, said that most workers already have consumed their leave credits.

“Most of us have nothing to eat,” he stressed.

Until today, the company has not settled its obligation to the power distribution utility.

PACEMCO has two power generators but only one is working and is not enough to run the entire plant, Batac said.

In a document MindaNews obtained from the Department of Labor and Employment-Caraga region (DOLE Caraga), Enrico Raymundo, PACEMCO vice president for administration and finance, explained that they are still negotiating with an investor.

DOLE-Caraga held a conciliation conference here with the company last October 15.

“PACEMCO has to render a decision on or before November 6, 2014 as to the employment status of its workers. Mr. Raymundo cannot answer whether PACEMCO will resume operation or not in view of its current financial status. PACEMCO further recognizes and acknowledges its obligations towards their workers,” the document stated.

Batac said PACEMCO wants to sell the company to San Miguel Corp.

Ramon Ang, San Miguel president and chief operating officer, visited the PACEMCO plant in Barangay Quezon last June 6, he added.

MindaNews tried contacting the PACEMCO management since Thursday but got no reply as of press time Saturday.

PACEMCO, the sole cement company in the Caraga Region, is the only remaining Filipino-owned and controlled cement company in the country. It started commercial operations in 1967. The company produces 500,000 to 700,000 bags of cement per month.

In January 2012, workers staged a protest inside the cement plant because of delayed release of wages, bonuses and other benefits. (Roel Catoto/MindaNews)