WITH 291 affirmative votes, the strike by the members of the Central Negros Electric Cooperative (Ceneco) Union of Rational Employees (Cure) will push through.

Cure President Stefannie Montenar said Sunday, January 30, 2022, they will submit the result of their voting referendum to the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

Once the NCMB replies, the “seven-day cooling-off period” will start, Montenar said, adding that this might cripple several Ceneco services.

Among the employees joining the strike are linemen, collectors, meter readers and tellers, among others.

Cure earlier called on Ceneco to implement the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), which was approved in September 2021.

The CBA also covers the salary hike of the employees effective July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2022, although Montenar said they agreed that the effectivity should instead be moved to July 2021.

Aside from the CBA, Cure members are also urging Ceneco to implement the P500 monthly allowance, which was not given since July 2019, and release the P15,000 signing bonuses of the employees.

“Many of us died while others had retired without receiving their signing bonus,” Montenar said.

“We are not even asking for the full payment of our signing bonus and in fact, we are willing to accept if they will give it to us on a staggered basis,” she said.

At a dialogue last week with the board of directors of Ceneco, which was also attended by the members of Cure, the finance department of the cooperative stressed that they cannot grant the CBA due to lack of budget.

Montenar said because there was no appropriated budget for their CBA and other benefits, the Ceneco management sent a supplemental budget to the National Electrification Administration (NEA).

She added that the agency replied that Ceneco needs to reach a 95-percent collection efficiency rate.

Currently, Ceneco’s collection efficiency is only at 92 percent and among the factors for this is the ongoing coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, the power distribution utility said in a statement.

Since Ceneco is obligated to pay its power suppliers and transmission service providers, the unpaid electric bills of the members-consumers except for the distribution supply and metering charges are being shouldered by the cooperative to avoid disconnection of power supply, it added.

The management also emphasized that the firm is presently tight in a financial situation, which is compounded by high systems loss caused by electricity pilferages.

Ceneco management assured that it will implement the CBA and that of the Responsible Supervisory and Confidential Union of Employees (Rescue) once confirmed by the NEA.

But Montenar said they want a specific date on when Ceneco could give their demands, saying that they have been waiting for too long.

She appealed for understanding from the member-consumers in case they could not respond immediately to emergency calls since their linemen and other employees are joining the strike.

Montenar likewise clarified that no politician is behind them and that, “we are not allowing ourselves to be used by any of them.”

Cure found an ally with Councilor Wilson Gamboa Jr., chairman of the Sangguniang Panlungsod Committee on Human Rights, who expressed support to the protesting Ceneco employees.

Gamboa, one of the staunch critics of the electric firm, said Ceneco should heed the employees' appeal as these people have been working hard for their benefits.

He said the low collection efficiency rate should be used as a reason for the non-release of the CBA.

Meanwhile, Ceneco President Jojit Yap said they have yet to release their official statement regarding the upcoming strike of Cure members.

Yap said the members of the bboard and the management of the cooperative will meet with their lawyers next week before coming up with a statement.