Thursday, April 30, 2009

Unionism in the University of the Philippines: A post-Marcos dictatorship gain

by: Judy M. Taguiwalo, Ph.D.
The UP Forum
Volume 10, Number 2, March-April 2009



Introduction

Unions are established where an employer-employee relationship exists. The basic concerns of unions are the protection of the rights of employees, the advancement of their economic welfare and improvements in their terms and conditions of work.

Public sector unionism in the Philippines is a relatively recent reclaimed right by government personnel in the country. The reclaiming of such a right cannot be divorced from the gains won by the Filipino people in ending the 20-year martial rule when through presidential edict the right of public sector employees to form unions was removed.

Prior to the 1987 Philippine Constitution, unionism in the public sector except in government-owned and controlled-corporations was prohibited by Presidential Decree No. 442 or “The Labor Code of the Philippines.”1

The rights of Filipino government employees to form unions were recognized only after the overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship. These rights are enshrined in the 1987 Philippine Constitution:

Article III, Sec. 8. The right of the people, including those employed in the public and private sectors, to form unions, associations, or societies for purposes not contrary to law shall not be abridged;

Article IX-B, Sec. 2 (5). The right to self organization shall not be denied to government employees; and

Article XIII, Sec. 3. The State shall afford full protection to labor, local and overseas, organized and unorganized, and promote full employment and equality of employment opportunities for all.

The State shall guarantee the rights of all workers to self-organization, collective bargaining and negotiations, and peaceful concerted activities, including the right to strike in accordance with law. They shall be entitled to security of tenure, humane conditions of work, and a living wage. They shall also participate in policy and decision-making processes affecting their rights and benefits as may be provided by law.

Executive Order No. 180, issued on June 1, 1987 by then President Corazon Aquino spelled out the scope and limits of public sector unionism.2

Unionism in the University of the Philippines: Beginnings

In the University of the Philippines, a number of UP faculty members, administrative staff and research, extension and professional staff banded together in 1987 to exercise the newly recognized right to form a union and established the All-UP Workers Union. Another union composed solely of administrative staff, the Organization of Non-Academic Personnel of UP (ONAPUP) was registered in 1987.

There has been no controversy regarding the need for a union of administrative staff of the university. But questions have been raised about the composition of a faculty union in the university.

In 1990, the UP Administration, through its General Counsel, objected to the inclusion of all teaching personnel as “rank-and-file” and therefore eligible to become union members. It averred that “only those holding appointments at the instructor level may be so considered, because those holding appointments from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor to full Professor take part, as members of the University Council, a policy making body, in the initiation of policies and rules with respect to faculty tenure and promotions.” 3

The Supreme Court in its July 14, 1992 decision ruled that in light “of Executive Order No. 180 and its implementing rules, as well as the University’s charter and relevant regulations, the professors, associate professors and assistant professors (hereafter simply referred to as professors) cannot be considered as exercising such managerial or highly confidential functions as would justify their being categorized as ‘high-level’ employees of the institution.”4 The court also ruled that membership of professors in the University Council is not sufficient to consider them as “policy-determining” since decisions of the University Council are subject to review, evaluation and final approval of the Board of Regents. The Supreme Court further clarified that whatever policy determining functions the University Council has are in the realm of “academic matters, those governing the relationship between the University and its students, and not the University as an employer and the professors as employees”. The same 1992 Supreme Court decision’s final paragraph stated that academic employees of the institution – i.e., full professors, associate professors, assistant professors, instructors and the research, extension and professional staff, “may, if so minded, organize themselves into a separate (from the administrative staff) collective bargaining unit”.

In conformity with this Supreme Court decision, the All-UP Academic Employees Union, as the union of academic teaching and non-teaching personnel, was formed in December 2001 and the All-UP Workers Union transformed itself to become an all-administrative staff union. The All-UP Workers Alliance provides the mechanism for the two UP unions to work together to advance common interests.

Gains made by the UP-accredited unions

The All UP Workers Union and the All UP Academic Employees Union basically adhere to the same basic principles and aims which are reflected in the preamble of their Constitutions:

We are aware of our role in the pursuit of the mission of the University as a sacred trust of the Filipino people. We are also conscious of the need to consolidate our collective strength as a means towards effective participation in decision making on matters affecting our interests and welfare.

We commit ourselves to protect our rights and to advance our interests towards decent work, under conditions which enhance creativity, excellence, freedom, justice, dignity, security and equity without discrimination for all academic/administrative employees in the University.

We fully realize that our effort to enhance the quality of our life forms part of the general movement to achieve a just and democratic social order, and a better standard of living for the Filipino people. We affirm our responsibility to contribute to the unity and well-being of all employees of the University of the Philippines and all disadvantaged members of Philippine society.

To more effectively advance the rights and welfare of rank-and-file personnel of the University which they represent, unions have to win the right to negotiate with the university administration and thus have to be accredited.

Registration and accreditation of a union are two different things. Registration means the formation of a public sector union and registering such with the Department of Labor and Employment and the Civil Service Commission. Registration does not automatically give the union the right to negotiate with the employer. Accreditation or the right to be the sole-and-exclusive representative of the rank-and-file personnel of a negotiating unit requires proof that the union has gained the majority support of such personnel. This is achieved through a certification election (CE) where members of the negotiating unit vote for their union of choice (or in the absence of more than one union, to vote for no union representation) or through the automatic recognition of a union attained by garnering the signatures of the majority of the rank-and-file personnel.

The All-UP Workers Union has twice been accredited by winning the certification elections in 2001 and 2007. The All-UP Academic Employees Union won accreditation in 2006 through the automatic recognition given to it by the Civil Service Commission after the latter verified that the union has garnered the support of the majority of the rank-and-file faculty and REPS of the university.

Through the dual thrusts of negotiations and collective actions, the All UP Workers Union and the All UP Academic Employees Union have won numerous economic and non-economic benefits for the administrative staff and even prior to the accreditation of the academic union, for the academic personnel on the basis of equity. These economic benefits include yearend incentive allowances of P69,000 in the past seven years, the grant of rice subsidy for personnel starting 2003, the first time in the history of the University that personnel received such subsidy; the increase in loyalty pay award from P2,500 to P5,000 for every five years of service; P1,000 annual grocery allowance since 2006, among others. 5

During UPs centennial year, the unions advocated and won the P20,000 centennial bonus for every regular UP employee still employed as of June 2008.* The unions actively and successfully lobbied for the inclusion of the UP personnel in the 10% salary increase automatically granted to other government employees in July 2008 after the Department of Budget and Management initially excluded UP on account of the 2008 UP Charter. A Collective Negotiation Agreement (CNA) incentive of P10, 000 each was awarded early this year to all UP employees after the approval of the CNAs between the two unions and the UP Administration.

The unions have also won non-monetary benefits for the rank-and-file administrative and academic personnel through the grant of additional three-day special leave privileges and additional three-day job-related sickness leave, among others.

Beyond the economic benefits, the unions’ CNAs expanded rank-and-file participation in the university’s governance. The CNAs recognize union representation in key university committees especially those committees involving “terms and conditions of work.” This ensures that representatives of the rank-and-file chosen by them are involved in drafting proposals, in implementing and in reviewing university policies related to their welfare.

The two unions have also facilitated information dissemination on decisions and policies related to UP personnel welfare whether these emanate from the national government or from the University administration. They have worked toward ensuring that transparency and due process are upheld in administrative decisions involving renewal, tenure, promotions or disciplinary actions against UP personnel. In a number of cases, the unions have assisted individual UP personnel with grievance issues raised in the agency or unit levels. And they have proposed enabling conditions for faculty and REPS to fulfill new academic requirements for tenure and promotion.

Consistent with the declarations in their Constitution and by-laws that the All-UP Workers Union and the All-UP Academic Employees Union are part of the “general movement to achieve a just and democratic social order and a better standard of living for the Filipino people.” the two unions have participated in advocacies against corruption in government, against electoral fraud, against human rights violation in the country and against policies which diminish Philippine sovereignty.

Challenges

Conditions internal and external to the University demand that the university unions persist in its advocacy for the rights and welfare of UP personnel and to link this advocacy with national and international issues.

The university unions need to make sure that the following purposes of the university embodied in the 2008 UP Charter and which directly affect them are attained:6

Protect and promote the professional and economic rights and welfare of its academic and non-academic personnel;

Provide democratic governance in the University based on collegiality, representation, accountability, transparency and active participation of its constituents, and promote the holding of fora for students, faculty, research, extension and professional staff (REPS), staff, and alumni to discuss non-academic issues affecting the University

At the same time, the unions need to continue to advocate that UP as a state university should “promote, foster, nurture and protect the right of all citizens to accessible quality education.”7 They have to persist in opposing university policies which “corporatize” university governance and financial management as these erode the public and democratic character of the university and emphasize a market or profit orientation while diminishing the service character of the institution. Aware of the link between national policies and the University’s and its personnel’s welfare, the unions must work for national economic and education policies which give priority to financing education and other social services and an educational direction that would put emphasis on national development and service to the Filipino people instead of education for meeting the needs of the global market through the export of labor.

__________
Dr. Judy Taguiwalo is professor at the College of Social Work and Community Development, University of the Philippines Diliman, and founding National President of the All-UP Academic Employees Union (December 2001-April 2008). She also served as National Secretary of the All-UP Workers Union from 1998-2001.

Notes:

1 Article 244 of PD 442, “Right of employees in the public service. - Employees of government corporations established under the Corporation Code shall have the right to organize and to bargain collectively with their respective employers. All other employees in the civil service shall have the right to form associations for purposes not contrary to law.”

2 Executive Order No. 180 June 1, 1987, Providing Guidelines for the Exercise of the Right to Organize Government Employees. http://www.lawphil.net/executive/execord/eo1987/eo_180_1987.html, accessed August 12, 2007

3 As cited in the Supreme Court decision, G.R. No. 96189, July 14, 1992. p. 4

4 ibid. p. 6.

5 Clodualdo Cabrera, “ Ang Maikling Kasaysayan ng All UP Workers Union”, Serve the People, Ang Kasaysayan ng Radikal na Kilusan sa Unibersidad ng Pilipinas, edited by Bienvenido Lumbera et al. (Quezon City: Ibon Foundation, Inc., 2008).

6 SEC. 3. Purpose of the University; (e) and (h). Republic Act 9500 or the 2008 UP Charter

7 SEC. 2. Declaration of Policy. Republic Act 9500 or the 2008 UP Charter.


Additional Notes:

* Appealed to for clarification, the Office of the UP President provided this information: In response to urgent requests from different sectors of the UP community for a Centennial bonus, President Emerlinda R. Roman began meeting as early as February 2008 with the different chancellors, to determine if funds for this could be sourced. When they were able to identify such sources, the request was submitted to DBM, and subsequently to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Final approval came only on UPs Centennial Day, June 18.

While unionism in state universities and colleges in the Philippines is relatively new, academic unions in the United States have gained ground in the past thirty yeas.

An historical example from the United States illustrates the intimate connection between the founding of faculty unions and the pursuit of academic freedom.

The historian of ideas Arthur O. Lovejoy and the philosopher John Dewey initiated the formation of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP)(Unions of Faculty and other Members of the Academic Community in the United States) in 1915 when they saw how easily the noted economist, Edward Ross was unjustly deprived of his job at Stanford University because the owner didn’t like his views on immigrant labor and railroad monopolies.1

Much more recently, in a November 2005 document entitled “Unionism: Principles and Goals”2 the AAUP noted that:

Over the past thirty years, faculty and other members of the academic community have increasingly turned to unions to protect their individual rights, their shared role in institutional governance, and the standards and practices that guarantee the quality of American higher education. Unions have proven effective in struggles to defend tenure, protect academic freedom, and secure “a sufficient degree of economic security to make the profession attractive to men and women of ability.

In that same AAUP document, the association enumerated a number of benefits that academic unions provide:

(1) Unions enable faculty and other members of the academic community, who would be powerless alone, to safeguard their teaching and working conditions by pooling their strengths.

(2) Unions make it possible for different sectors of the academic community to secure contractual, legally enforceable claims on college administrations, at a time when reliance on traditional advice and consent has proved inadequate.

(3) Unions provide members with critical institutional analyses—of budget figures, enrollment trends, and policy formulations—that would be unavailable without the resources provided by member dues and national experts.

(4) Unions increase the legislative influence and political impact of the academic community as a whole by maintaining regular relations with state and federal governments and collaborating with affiliated labor organizations.

(5) Unions reinforce the collegiality necessary to preserve the vitality of academic life under such threats as deprofessionalization and fractionalization of the faculty, rivatization of public services, and the expanding claims of managerial primacy in governance.

Notes

1 “History of AAUP”. http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/about/history/ , accessed March 28, 2009

2 “Unionism: Principles and Goals”. http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/protect/bargaining/aaup-unionism.htm, accessed April 22, 2008.

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