By ARNETH ASIDDAO
MANILA — More than 60 security guards at the University of the Philippines Diliman face uncertainty about their employment after the turnover of UP’s new security provider Grand Meritus Security Agency Inc.
Many dismissed security guards had been working for UP for at least a decade, with some serving for as long as 23 years.
In a recent meeting with Alliance of Contractual Employees (ACE) UP and All UP Workers Alliance, UP Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo reassured that UP will negotiate with Grand Meritus Security Agency Inc. for the maximum absorption of security guards into the new agency and their immediate assignment back to duty.
Steph Andaya of Alliance of Contractual Employees in UP (ACE-UP), however, said there is still no definite date as to when the guards can return to their posts.
Atty. John Barona, director of UP Public Safety and Security Office (PSSO), said in an email posted on ACE-UP’s Facebook page that negotiations with Grand Meritus are still ongoing and there are no developments yet.
The security personnel have also not received their last salary from Northcom Security and Investigation Agency, UP’s former agency.
All UP Workers Alliance also suggested that the UP administration consider taking in security guards who will not be absorbed to Grand Meritus as UP Diliman Special Services Brigade (SSB). Such move, said the ACE-UP, would not only provide jobs for those retrenched but would also ensure the security of the university amid the termination of UP-Department of National Defense Accord.
The UP-DND Accord, which prohibits state security forces from entering university premises without prior notice to the school administration, was unilaterally terminated by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana early this year.
ACE-UP and All UP Academic Employees Union also requested to be included in preparing the terms of reference (TOR) of third-party agencies handling UP’s security guards, maintenance workers and sweepers.
Running on empty
Security guard Arnel Jabian, 40, said being laid off during a pandemic has forced his family of seven to live on instant noodles, eggs and malunggay (moringa).
“It’s very difficult since I have five children who are still in school. I need to spend for their education too,” Jabian told Bulatlat in Filipino.
He also shared that some of his fellow security personnel have been asked to leave their rented apartments following their dismissal.
Jabian has been a security guard at UP for 17 years and has received several awards for his service. However, he felt like his decades of service have been ignored when he retrenced.
He said he couldn’t apply to other agencies either because many of them have implemented a hiring freeze due to the pandemic.
“We are hoping that we can go back to UP as soon as possible,” Jabian said.
Fight against rampant contractualization
Andaya said there are many forms and layers of contractualization in UP including subcontracting through agencies which is how security guards and maintenance workers are hired.
Subcontracting is defined in the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) DO No. 174 as a scheme where the “principal agrees to farm out to a contractor the performance or completion of a specific job or work within a definite or predetermined period.”
This arrangement eliminates the direct relationship between the company and employee, absolving the company of its duties like regularizing workers and providing leaves and benefits.
As with all government bodies, UP as a state university regularly conducts biddings to pick out the third-party service provider with the lowest bid, a practice that results in chronic layoffs like what happened to Jabian and 60 other security personnel.
However, Jabian remains hopeful they will be able to work again. .