By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Newly retired employees of the University of the Philippines received some good news last week when their fellow employees’ struggle for additional benefits finally bore fruit. “It has proven once again the power of collective mass action,” Noli Anoos, UP administrative personnel and board member of the employees’ union, told bulatlat.com.
“As soon as the workers found out that they’ve won, they started applauding, smiling, shouting, shaking each others’ hands, embracing each other, and a good number of them were crying tears of joy,” said Prof. Sarah Raymundo in one of her online posts.
Anoos qualified though that they still need to be on guard, because other thorny issues concerning their labor conditions in the university remain.
Citing discrimination, the employees and the REPS (research and extension personnel services), which number more than 8,000, have been campaigning to be covered as well with a benefit called SRP, or service recognition pay, of which 15 days per year of service has already been given to the 5,000-plus university faculty by the UP administration. The SRP is an additional leave, convertible to cash if unused.
The faculty employees started receiving a 10-day SRP in 2007 and an additional 5-day SRP since 2009. But the rest of UP employees and REPS were denied the said benefits. They have campaigned against discrimination particularly in the matter of SRP, but sadly, nothing reportedly came out of it under the then UP President Emerlinda Roman.
It was only last year under new UP President ALfredo Pascual when the university’s Board of Regents approved the granting of 10-day SRP to the employees and REPS. But its implementation also did not immediately follow for lack of implementing rules and regulations. This is what the employees finally got during a mass action last week of January 2012. UP President Alfredo Pascual reportedly announced before the protesting employees that they would start enjoying the 10-day SRP this year.
The news has also brought joy to the employees who retired last year, because they may still get the cash equivalent of the benefit. “It is proof that in this University, labor is to be valued the way we all should. It is a statement on the difference between mental and manual labor: that it should not translate to discriminatory policies and mental schemes and dispositions skewed to an archaic sense of hierarchy,” said Prof. Raymundo.
The implementation of the already approved benefit reportedly got stalled by the need to consult numerous sides and the search for funds.
Although cheered by the news about their SRP, the employees of the university are still worried about other pending labor issues, such as the issue of abolished items not being filled up and instead being converted to positions for contractual non-UP employees. The trend has affected the jobs of the university security guards and janitors, said Anoos. Given the scope of the 493-hectare university, Anoos said, the quality of services is no longer assured. Added to that, the yearly requirement for new security guards represents more costs to these contractual workers.
Contractualization is reportedly happening even among the UP faculty and REPS. According to Anoos, about 400 contractual lecturers are employed in UP. With contractualization, Anoos said, teachers and affected employees do not enjoy the same wage rates and benefits which the regular employees and faculty have managed to achieve through years of struggle and negotiations in the university.