By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – On the fourth day of the strike of 180 contractual janitors of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), the labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno dared the labor department to compel the PUP administration to absorb the striking workers. The striking janitors had been barred from working in the university late last week, despite years of having worked there and despite a signed agreement with the university administration that they would be absorbed by its new contractor.
In a meeting this week with the PUP administration and the janitors’ union Samahan ng mga Janitors sa PUP (SJPUP), Rey Ubaldo, executive director of DOLE-National Reconciliation and Mediation Board, said he is in agreement with the workers’ demand to be absorbed by the new agency.
Ubaldo said the PUP administration should implement the memorandum of agreement signed by PUP Officer-in-Charge Estelita Wi dela Rosa and the workers last Feb. 16, where it is stipulated that the 180 janitors would be absorbed by Care Best, the new labor agency contracted by PUP to bring workers for its regular maintenance.
Numerous reasons back the janitors’ demand for reinstatement
The striking janitors said there are numerous reasons why they should be retained in their jobs. “Even the NCMB, through Mr. Ubaldo, was forced to recognize our right to be absorbed and reinstated,” said Rey Cagomoc, president of the striking janitors’ union.
Cagomoc also pointed to the memorandum of agreement “signed by no less than the PUP OIC,” and the fact that “there’s a long-standing practice of absorbing us yearly, and we have been serving the university for decades now.”
Cogomoc himself started working in PUP 25 years ago, in 1986. Majority of the janitors on strike have worked at the university for more than two decades now.
SJPUP is an affiliate of the National Federation of Labor Unions (NAFLU), a federation of KMU.
DOLE finally upholding the rights of workers?
Ubaldo of the labor department also reasoned that since the contract with the new agency hired by the PUP, Care Best International Incorporated, is not yet in effect, the university has all the powers to compel it to absorb the said janitors.
But will this reasoning of the NCMB find implementation on the ground? The labor center KMU challenged the NCMB “to be true to their words.”
“We dare it (NCMB) to compel the PUP administration to enforce the janitors’ immediate absorption into the new agency, as agreed upon in the MOA,” said Tony Pascual, secretary-general of NAFLU-KMU.
The striking janitors vowed to continue fighting for their rights. “We vow never to leave our picketline unless and until we are able to actually hold our cleaning tools again and get back to work,” said Cogomoc.
The union thanked their supporters, even as it urged everyone, “especially the PUP community and Filipino workers in general,” to continue supporting their struggle for reinstatement and putting an end to contractualization.