Strike looms over Ceneco; DOLE, NEA intervention sought

By Dolly Yasa

BACOLOD City – A strike threatens the operation of Central Negros Electric Cooperative (Ceneco) after majority of the Ceneco Union of Rational Employees (CURE) members voted in favor of the strike in a referendum Saturday.

93 percent of Ceneco employees attended and voted in the referendum.

In a virtual press conference Monday, Ceneco officer-in- charge Engr. Jose Tanongon said they plan to seek the intervention of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the National Electrification Administration (NEA) for an Assumptive Jurisdiction or AJ.

Under labor laws, AJ gives the DoLE Secretary power to assume jurisdiction over a labor dispute or certify the same for compulsory arbitration when in his/her opinion, it is causing or is likely to cause a strike or lockout in an industry indispensable to national interest.

This is to prevent unnecessary work interruption that could possibly lead to considerable socio-economic loss on the part of the labor and management, and to the country as a whole.

CURE president Stefannie Montaner told the Daily Guardian here that 291 employees voted “yes” while 10 voted “no”.

Montaner explained that the strike vote referendum was held to get the approval of the employees to hold a strike for the non-implementation by the Ceneco management of the approved Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

The result of the referendum was submitted Monday to the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB).

It will also be the time they will count day one of the 7-day cooling off period with the Ceneco management, Montaner said.

Montaner contended that the Ceneco management has not implemented the approved CBA until now which include a 5 percent salary increase, even after the holding of the Annual General Membership Assembly (AGMA) on Sept 26, 2021 and despite the intervention by NEA.

Instead, Ceneco has set a certain condition that they should reach 95 percent collection efficiency which is unattainable given the present situation.

Montaner also claimed that no such condition was presented during the negotiation.

She said that the strike could affect the collection, meter reading and other services of Ceneco since their linemen are also union members.

Tanongon said that that they will implement the CBA of CURE and that of the Responsible Supervisory and Confidential Union of Employees (RESCUE), once confirmed by NEA.

But he added that they will comply with NEA’s advice on the attainment of 95 percent collection efficiency to ensure financial sustainability of the cooperative prior to its implementation.

He also assured the member-consumer-members (MCOs) that the service they provide are not affected by the implementation of the CBA.

Tanongon said once the DOLE takes jurisdiction of the power utility firm, they can hire people to do the tasks of those who are on strike.

He said they will not allow public service to be disrupted by the looming strike.

Montaner said that while waiting for their mediation with NCMB, they will continue to hope for positive results within the 7-day cooling off period because, as much as possible, they do not want to hold a strike.

But they were left with no choice but to push with their decision because the Ceneco management is not listening to them and has not given them a timetable on the CBA implementation.

CENECO president Jojit Yap reiterated her appeal to the union not to push through with the strike and go back to the negotiating table.