The newly-formed labor union, the Samahan ng mga Manggagawang Blue Collar sa Ateneo (SAMABCA)-ALU-TUCP, took to the streets their dismay last October 18 over the termination of the contract between the Blue Collar Manpower Services, Inc. (BCMSI) and Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU).
After 17 years of service agreement, the university recently ended its relations with the agency that provided clerical and utility services inside the Jacinto and Matina campuses after University President Fr. Joel Tabora sent a notice of termination to the BCMSCI management.
Despite the notion that the university administration has no jurisdiction or legal obligations over the management of agency employees, the union challenges the Jesuit community and its principles towards social justice.
The university’s position regarding the issue is based on its legal contract with BCMSI which ran from 2003 until May 31, 2016. Complications between both parties caused the non-extension of said contract.
Atty. Manuel Quibod, the legal counsel of Ateneo de Davao, told Atenews how the university decided to end its transactions with the agency.
“One year ago na na-terminate ang contract. Tapos from that termination, nagkwentuhan for negotiation para ma-extend sila. Until hindi nagkakasundo, tinerminate na lang,” Quibod said.
Quibod defended that the contract between the university and BCMSI has no policies on employer-employee relationship insofar as the workers that agency deploys. The contract solely recognizes the contractual relationship between AdDU and BCMSI.
“We were on the contract with the agency, so the workers of the agency are not our workers,” Quibod iterated.
AdDU, as the principal of the service provider, acknowledges the sanctity of its contract with BCMSI. The press statement released by the university reaffirmed that involved parties are “free to enter and rescind contracts when conditions are no longer favourable to them.”
Moreover, in the same press statement, the university urged its employees to air their grievances directly to the BCMSI, their employer, and not to the university itself.
“We’re not part of that. We engage them because they are a legitimate agency, and under the conditions, we entered into a valid contract,” Quibod added.
In regards to the claim that the university is opposed to the formation of a workers’ union, Quibod pointed out that workers have the right to form a union, but there are ‘legal complications.’ For instance, a formation of a union within the premises of the university, a client establishment, may pose a legal issue, he said.
Quibod remarked on the workers’ outbursts against the university, noting that voicing these concerns is tantamount to their freedom of expression.
Inasmuch as the university refuses to be involved in the controversy, it iterated that the administration empathizes with the workers but remains firm on the legal standing that these are not their employees but of the agency.
Alleged cases of unjust treatment and unfair labor practices by the agency, such as underpayment and unwarranted implementation of policies, caused the rank and file workers to assert their right through forming a union that will seek to protect their security of tenure and other labor rights.
According to Anecito Detomal, 46, the president of SAMABCA, the union aims that the employer-employee relationship is checked and balanced.
Detomal said that Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) found out that the agency was inconsistent with the rules and regulations and had issues with regards to underpayment of bonuses such as the 13th Month Pay after conducting inspections in the campus.
“Moingon ang Ateneo na dapat mag-complain mi sa Blue Collar kay under agency man mi. Niingon ko sa Ateneo na kung kami man gud magsulti sa agency, di man gud mi paminawon. So since kamo man ang principal, kamo man ang kliyente, siguro naa man moy tingog,” Detomal expressed his sentiment during an interview.
A dozen of utility workers sought assistance from the Association of Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP), a leading party list of labor federation in the country, after dissatisfied with the actions of DOLE. During a seminar with ALU-TUCP, the workers discussed the process of forming a union on June 18 and decided to elect its officers on the same day.
A series of hearings involving the Blue Collar Manpower Services Inc. followed. During the first hearing, the agency did not object on the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) which 500 workers filed a petition.
In the second hearing, discussions on the election that aimed to determine the will of the workers to unionize included the venue of election, a list of participants who were going to vote, among others.
However, Detomal suspected that the university was quick to end its transactions with the agency after the release of the certificate of election (CE) last October 6. For him, the abrupt termination of contract was questionable, thinking that it’s a form of ‘union busting.’
Termination of contract
In an article by davaotoday.com, a copy of letter of the legal counsel of the Blue Collar to DOLE, Glenn Polinar from BCMSI informed Reynaldo Dennis Badilles, chief of the Davao City Field Office of DOLE 11, that “the Service Agreement of Blue Collar Manpower Services, Inc. with Ateneo de Davao University expired last May 31, 2016.”
“We shall stop our services on October 15, 2017, as directed by Ateneo de Davao University,” Polinar wrote.
Moreover, he said the supposed bargaining unit “has ceased to exist” because of the situation.
In a letter dated October 6, 2017, Tabora wrote BCMSI Executive Vice President-Finance Evangeline Camacho informing her that the service agreement has expired last year and that university is not renewing the contract.
“For purposes of transition, you will continue providing services until 15 October 2017, unless sooner advised,” Tabora stated.
Thus, the employees were instructed to resign from the previous agency in order to reapply into the two new agencies, the JARC Manpower Allied & Services and Bangkal Manpower & Industrial Services Corporation, until October 15.
On October 16, the employees who failed to or did not reapply were prohibited from entering the said campus. The dozens of affected employees found themselves jobless after years of work.
Days before the election, a group led by Detomal gathered at the Freedom Park fronting the Community Center of the First Companions, reaching out to the administration to no avail. Consequently, on October 18, the group staged a protest simultaneous with the election and challenged the principles of Jesuit priests.
“Pari man, nganong ingon ani ilang gibuhat. Pinakakagamay na posisyon na kompanya tapos under agency, nganong nakaako man sila’g buhat ana? Katong nag-rally mi medyo nasuko daw sila, ang mga pari. Bastos gyud ning gibuhat sa amoa,” Detomal stressed.
Despite the knowledge that they’re working as contractual employees, around 130 workers did not reapply for fear of affecting their respective length of service and losing their separation pay.
When asked about the connection of election to the termination of contract, Ernesto Kalan Jr., the industrial relation officer of ALU-TUCP, linked the university administration to the contention.
“Ang naga-pressure karon sa mga tao na dili pabotaron mao si Ateneo. Ang naga-instruct karon sa mga tao na mag-apply sa bag-ong agency ug mag-resign, ang ni-instruct ana is si Ateneo.
“Wala nato gi-file-an og petition for CE si Ateneo, kung dili ang gi-file-an nato’g CE si Blue Collar. Pero ngano nag-apil man si Ateneo? Gi-cut niya ang service diri sa Blue Collar and then gipa-reapply ang mga tao sa other agencies,” Kalan narrated.
Length of separation
Rowena Mangaliwan, an elevator attendant for 12 years, is one of the affected employees who did not reapply to the new agencies. She stated the unfair consequences if they would resign and reapply.
“Ang advice sa amo kay dili mag-reapply kay kung mag-reapply ka, kailangan ka mag-resign. Kung mag-resign ka, ang pila nimo ka tuig wala na kay [habol]. Mao gyud nay gipaglaban sa akong mga kauban. Mao to kami wala na gyud mi nag-reapply. Pagka-Monday adto kay ni-declare na dili na makasulod ang wala naka-apply kay walay I.D.
“Karong ang mga naa sa sulod pa-resign-on man sila para makuha nimo ang 13th Month Pay nila. Ako 12 years na baya ko. Kung mag-resign ka, dili na mabayran ang length of service nimo, mawala to,” Mangaliwan feared.
Kalan also pointed out the implication of resignation in order to reapply.
“Pwede man sila mag-reapply pero ang pressure man gud sa management, lalo na sa Ateneo, ang direct instructed man gyud na kon maong gi-implead nato ang Ateneo with regards diha sa gi-file nato’g complaint.
“Gumikan kay si Ateneo ang direct na ni-instruct sa mga tao na pwede mo ka re-apply mutrabaho mo with Ateneo pero mo-resign. Kung mo-resign man gud ka, i-cover-to-cover pa nimo ang Labor Code, wala gyud na’y nakaingon diha nga duna kay madawat na separation pay,” Kalan stated.
Despite their conviction regarding on the matter, Kalan, however, conceded that the administration holds legal basis at some levels.
“Kung tan-awon lang man gyud nato ang balaod, tama na wala’y kuan si Ateneo… dili siya impleaded regarding ana na case kung naga-complain ta sa length of service sa workers. Iyaha man gyud na sa Blue Collar.
“Duna man gud ginaingon sa balaod na if in case mawala ang isa ka manpower agency, ang length of service diri nimo i-claim sa service provider, like diri karon sa blue collar. Like karon wala’y appearance ang Blue Collar, pag dili nimo makuha imong length of service sa Blue Collar, diha gyud na nimo i-claim sa principal. That’s why i-implead nato ang Ateneo,” Kalan elaborated.
A question on principles
In a press statement released by Kalan on his Facebook account on the same day of election, the SAMABCA-ALU-TUCP challenged the ‘hypocrisy’ of the Jesuit management in failing “to live up to their religious and educational pretensions of being men and women for others.”
“All they want is to be regularized and to hold a decent job after rendering five to 20 years of service to the institution. Instead, the Ateneo management responded with cold-blooded and calculated legal maneuvers to trample on [their] constitutional rights.
“It is ironic that this can happen in the very backyard of President [Rodrigo Duterte who] stood firmly as [a] candidate on the platform of ending contructualization. He has repeatedly stated that he will never renege on his promise that “endo” and contructualization will be stopped. Today more than ever, workers rely on the President’s administration to make this happen,” the statement posted.
“Kung tan-awon nato, ang mga workers naa sila’y rights, ang katungod nga mo-form og union para sa katuyuan maka-CBA sila. Ang CBA mao na ang collective bargaining agreement. Sa CBA kasi ang unod ana dunay pang-ekonomiya, dunay pang-politika, and dunay pang-health and safety,” Kalan pointed out.
“Sa pang ekonomiya, una dira ang pagpataas sa sweldo sa mga worker. Isa na ka rason ngano dili gusto si Ateneo na dunay union na mahitabo diha,” he added.
As of press time, the union, along with the help of ALU-TUCP, still seeks settlement with the BCMSI management and the university administration following the contention.
Last October 26 at 3:00 PM, the three parties were supposed to have a dialogue under the supervision of National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB). Only the affected employees under SAMABCA and the university’s legal counsel, Quibod, appeared. The session contacted the representative of the BCMSI management to no avail. This led to the postponement of the hearing scheduled in the second week of November 2017.
Around 130 workers are still jobless. Aside from taking up part-time jobs, they still hope to be re-employed without having their length of service affected.
“Among panawagan sa Blue Collar na atubangon nila unsa gibuhat nila sa trabahante. Kung duna sila’y violation sa labor standard, bayaran nila. Then ang last namo nga panawagan, ibalik sila sa trabaho.
“Blue Collar, among panawagan sa inyo mo-appear mo sa hearing sa NCMB,” Kalan appealed.