THE looming labor strike at the Korean Electric Power Corp. (Kepco) plant in the City of Naga, southern Cebu, has beeen halted as the secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) enters the mediation process.

Dole Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma decided to intervene to prevent the mass disruption of power in Central Visayas affecting households, essential industries and institutions, including government offices, among others.

Under Article 248 of the Labor Code, the secretary has the power to intervene in a labor conflict, particularly if it concerns the public interest.

According to the Dole, Kepco Power Plant in Naga City operates 206 megawatts of electricity and supplies it to the Visayas grid, including Cebu and Bohol.

Status quo

In an interview with SunStar Cebu on Wednesday, March 8, Kepco Cebu Employees Association-Workers Solidarity Network (KCEA-WSN) federation officer Dennis Derige said everything returns to “status quo,” meaning all employees and management of the power plant return to normal operation.

On Tuesday, March 7, the union received notice of Assumption of Jurisdiction from Laguesma over the dispute between the Kepco management and the union.

Halted

Derige said all intended strikes, lockouts or any concerted action were automatically halted.

He said the development was both good news and bad news for KCEA-WSN.

The bad news was that the union can no longer exercise its rights to conduct a strike to air its disappointment to the Kepco management, Derige said.

However, Derige said this was a good opportunity for them also as it is the labor secretary who will mediate the conflict.

He sees the official as having more power and influence in resolution of the dispute.

He urged the Kepco management to follow the law and recognize them as the official union organization of the company, which the management has not yet acknowledged.

Derige said the failure of the Kepco management to recognize the union as the sole and exclusive bargaining agent and renegotiate the collective bargaining agreement forced the majority of the union members to vote for a strike.

He added that despite specific laws allowing them to exist, the management insists on appealing for a petition for certification election, creating a new union.