Terminated USC utility workers fight to keep jobs

By: Apple Ta-as May 21,2014 - 08:16 AM

The College of Architecture and Fine Arts in the USC-TC Campus (Photo credits: https://beta.usc.edu.ph/cafa/)

CLASSES were temporarily suspended yesterday at the University of San Carlos (USC) campus in Talamban, Cebu City after a group of workers blocked the university’s gates to protest their termination.

The workers – mostly maintenance and utility workers – lamented the loss of jobs following the closure of the USC General Services Office (GSO) as part of cost-cutting measures by the school in preparation for the implementation of the K+12 program in 2016.

The GSO has about 150 masons, carpenters and other workers with related skills.

At least 15 workers massed at the gate as early as 4:30 a.m. with protest placards. The barricades were removed in the afternoon and campus operations went back to normal.

Representatives of the university administration and the protesting workers are set to face each other today before government labor mediator Gemma Poloyapoy.

In a statement, the USC administration said the workers were offered a “reasonable” package higher than what is required by law and that 61 out of 71 personnel accepted separation benefits.

Only 15 union members and another one have refused the offer.

Juberito Contratista, president of the USC General Services Union, said they were notified of the GSO’s disbandment last April 8. Their termination took effect May 15.

He said meetings at the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) ended in a deadlock.
Contratista said the administration’s move was tantamount to union-busting and that the K+12 curriculum was just an alibi.

Fr. Ernesto M. Lagura, SVD, the university’s legal counsel, explained they had to implement cost-cutting measures to bring down operational expenses.

“When we saw that the GSO has one of the highest operational expenses, the Board of Trustees decided last October to close it since it’s not in the core process of the school and can be outsourced to lessen the expenses,” he said

The priest explained the principal work of the university includes teaching and research.

Lagura said 77 workers under the GSO were offered separation pay equivalent to one month salary per year of service and an additional amount equivalent to another 10 years. He said 61 took the offer while 15 decided to fight it out.

Contratista, who was with USC for 14 years, said he SVD-run Catholic university did not honor the Collective Bargaining Agreement they signed in 2011 which gives employees security of tenure from 2011 to 2016.

The administration said they anticipate a big drop in college enrollment with the implementation of the K-12 system by academic years 2016-17 and 2017-18 with the entry of Grades 11 and 12 in senior high school.

They also expect that only a few will pursue college studies by school year 2018-19.

“We have foreseen great difficulty when we begin to incur major expenses when we shall implement the K-12 system. Thus, we need to start long-range cost-cutting measures now. We are doing our best to reduce expenses as we maintain and operate the university. Difficult as it may be, we need to implement decisions, including the closure of GSO,” the statement said.

The terminated staffers said they are determined to fight for their reinstatement. / Xavier University intern Kent A. Ugalde


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