On Dec, 30 even as the employees were waiting for the BLR to release a decision on their petition, the hospital administration laid down a notice of termination dated Dec. 29, 2010 to union members and officers.
The grounds for the sudden firing was stated as “redundancy.” Fourteen employees from janitorial services and 17 regular employees from orderlies were terminated. Among those who were dismissed were the union’s president, vice president and members of the board of directors.
The union said it was clear that the reason for the sudden firing of the employees was union-related.
“If we are redundant, then why is it that the management continues to employ contractual employees? Contractuals are being hired to take over the positions we were forced to vacate,” said union president Roberto Villaram.
It was immediately revealed that the hospital administration replaced them with 39 contractual workers under the Integrated Management and General Services.
On January 3, 201, the employees led by their union filed cases of Illegal Dismissal and Unfair Labor Practice before National Labor Relations Commission.
On January 28, 2011 DOLE Mediator Arbiter Atty. Dax Villaruel granted the Petition for Certification Election of the union. Villaruel ordered the hospital to submit a certified list of regular rank and file employees on Feb. 9 during the pre-election conference at DoLE provincial office.
According to reports, the arbiter based his decision favoring the union on Section 14, Rule V111, Department Order No. 40-F-O3in the Labor Code of the Philippines, as amended by RA 9481.
Article 257 of the Labor Code stipulates that in any establishment where there is no certified bargaining agent, a certification election shall automatically be conducted by the Med-Arbiter upon the filing of a petition by any legitimate labor organization, including a national union or federation which has already issued a charter certificate to its local chapter which has been issued a charter certificate by the national union or federation.
In cases where the petition is filed by a national union or federation it shall be required to disclose the names of local union officers and members. If the local union wins the coming certification election, it will then represent the hospital workers in any negotiations.
Mourning Attacks Against Labor Rights
The union declared February 7 as the Day of Mourning to oppose the management’s “union busting attacks.” Union members and employees tied black ribbons around the hospital. Working employees in the meantime pinned black ribbons on their chests.
“The management is killing our right to organize, our right to form a union. The mass lay off is aimed at destroying the workers’ organization by employing contractual workers to cut down regular workers’ benefits while increasing profits,” said the union’s vice-president Roger Rubin.
“All employees must oppose contractualization and any kind of outsourcing scheme companies implement. These labor flexibility schemes deprive us of our rights to organize, demand just wages and job security, and other union rights,” Rubin insisted.
Last February 18, 2011 the certificate election was held and 137 employees voted yes to the union. Only one voted against the proposal, while one ballot was declared spoiled.
Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) Negros organizer Ronald Ian Evidente said the administration of the hospital continues to harass and threaten union members still employed in the hospital.
Evidente said the union’s victory at the certification election was a victory for all employees in the hospital. “Now the employees have an official collective bargaining unit inside the hospital. Union members can now demand law-decreed salary standards and wages hikes due them under labor laws,” he said.
After winning the certification election, the management under Johnson again terminated 15 food servers, bakers and a cook from the dietary department effective March 1, 2011. This time, the hospital administration said that it was implementing cost cutting measures and a downsizing program.
Evidente said the hospital management has already issued the threat that it will go after all the employees who voted for the union.
“The employees of Bacolod Our Lady of Mercy Hospital have done nothing wrong. They are only defending their rights stated in the 1987 Constitution and as mandated by labor laws. It is the hospital management that’s committing crimes one after the other by attacking the employees’ rights to unionize and demand what it is rightfully theirs,” he said.
Evidente said that if the administration of the hospital continues to be recalcitrant against the demands of the employees, a strike might very well be in the offing.
“The employees have no other choice but to fight for their jobs and their wages. All their long hours and hard work at the hospital was repaid with injustice, and they cannot be expected to allow this to continue” he said.
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has already expressed support for the employees of the hospital in their fight for labor rights.