Friday, November 25, 2005

UP Staff, Professors Protest Non-payment of Back COLA

About 1,000 administrative staff and professors in different campuses of the University of the Philippines (UP) staged pickets from Nov. 21 to 25 to protest the UP administration’s refusal to pay unpaid cost-of-living allowance (COLA). The strikers, who are members of the All-UP Workers Alliance (AUPWA), have been demanding the release of their COLA since 2001.

BY BULATLAT

About 1,000 administrative staff and professors in different campuses of the University of the Philippines (UP) staged pickets from Nov. 21 to 25 to protest the UP administration’s refusal to pay their back cost-of-living allowance (COLA).

The strikers, who are members of the All-UP Workers Alliance (AUPWA), have been demanding the release of their COLA since 2001, Buboy Cabrera, one of their leaders, said in an interview.

The AUPWA is composed of the unions of the rank and file (All-UP Workers Union) and the faculty (All-UP Academic Employees Union). Cabrera, who works at the UP Press in the Diliman campus, is president of the All-UP Workers Union.

Along with other government workers, UP administrative staff and professors have been calling on the national government to give back the COLA that was integrated into their basic salaries in line with the implementation of the Salary Standardization Law in 1989. However, it was not until 1999 that the law’s implementing rules and regulations got published.

Government employees have struggled for the release of their back COLAs from 1989 to 1999. Cabrera said other state colleges and universities like the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) and the Rizal Technological University (RTU) have issued back COLA to their employees.

Cabrera said the Board of Regents, UP’s highest policy-making body, decided in 2003 to defer the payment of back COLA until the Supreme Court (SC) decides on the issue. Early this year, the SC ruled that the payment of the back COLA is legal.

“But UP has not paid our back COLA,” said Cabrera. “The UP administration cites a Department of Budget and Management (DBM) memorandum stating that only government-owned and -controlled corporations are covered by the Supreme Court decision and not national government agencies which include UP.” The Supreme Court decision, Cabrera said, makes no such distinction.

He added, “President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued an order to release P1 billion ($18.5 million, based on an exchange rate of P54.15 per US dollar) for payment of back COLA, only to suddenly take it back.”

The strikers went on mass leave on Nov. 22 and 24. There was also a series of vigils through the week, as well as negotiations with the UP administration.

All-UP Academic Employees Union President Judy Taguiwalo, a professor at the College of Social Work and Community Development (CSWCD), said it was time to take the fight to a higher level. “For three years, the All-UP Workers Alliance has done many ways to send its message to the UP administration and the national government like dialogues, open letters and a rally at the DBM.”

Cabrera said the AUPWA will be holding consultations among its members in the coming days to plan for its next protest activities, among which is participation in a nationally-coordinated rally for the release of back COLA scheduled on Dec. 7.

The AUPWA also participated in the “People’s Procession” for truth, justice and human rights held in Manila Nov. 25. Bulatlat

© 2005 Bulatlat ■ Alipato Publications

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