For the academic sector in the UP system that comprises the faculty and the Research, Extension, and Professional Staff (REPS), 2021 ended with delayed benefits and persisting challenges.
The Collective Negotiation Agreement (CNA) between the All UP Academic Employees Union (AUPAEU) and the UP system administration was finally ratified in December 2021. The agreement includes the grant of the CNA Incentive amounting to P25,000 based on guidelines posted in the AUPAEU Facebook page.
Other benefits won by the union included sick leaves and special leave privileges; health and safety requirements; scholarship or study privileges for relatives of faculty and REPS without children; on-campus and off-campus housing facilities; medical assistance; and constitution of grievance procedures and provisions for supporting REPS’ well-being.
AUPAEU Los Baños (LB) President Prof. Cris Lanzaderas revealed in an exclusive interview with the Perspective that the CNA for fiscal year 2021 was continuously delayed due to numerous postponement of meetings brought by the pandemic.
“Usually kasi, ginagawa ang CNA face-to-face kasi doon talaga harapang naglalatag ng files ang dalawang sides [union and admin] para nga mag-negotiate,” Prof. Lanzaderas said.
[“Usually, the CNA is done face-to-face since both the union and admin provide files to negotiate.”]
He added that the online conference mode limited the two parties considering issues with electricity, Internet connection, or availability of one party at each time. These caused negotiations to be held on pause.
Prior to being approved, the CNA should be ratified by the largest number of faculty and REPS in the UP System, which is 50% + 1. This number was achieved resulting in the ratification of the agreement last December.
However, Prof. Lanzaderas said that there should have been negotiations as early as 2020 so that the CNA for fiscal year 2021 can be approved prior to that year, instead of being delayed to December 2021.
“Dapat nagkaroon na ng negotiations noong 2020 pa para bago magpalit ng taon , meron na, pero end of 2021 pa siya na-approve,” he added.
[“There should have been negotiations since 2020 so even before 2021, the CNA is already approved, but it was only approved by the end of 2021.”]
For academic employees, only the academic union has the exclusive right to negotiate with the UP administration.
According to Prof. Lanzaderas, “‘Yon ‘yong kapangyarihan ng union, kaya lagi kaming nanghihikayat na mag-member ang faculty at REPS. ‘Yong bilang, isa talaga siyang deciding factor para maibigay ng admin kung anuman ang nararapat para sa faculty and REPS.”
[“That is the power of the union, that is the reason we always urge the faculty and REPS to be part of the union. The number is really a deciding factor for the admin to grant whatever should be given to the faculty and the REPS.”]
Aside from the CNA incentives and leave credits, enclosed in the agreement is the representation of the union in key university committees.
“Para matiyak na fair at makatao ang policies na bubuuin dahil sila lang naman ang magpapatupad, pero ang makakaranas naman talaga ng policies ay ‘yong mga faculty and REPS, so dapat may representation ang union,” Prof. Lanzaderas added.
[“To make sure that the policies created are fair and humane since they are only the implementers; but the ones who will experience these policies are the faculty and REPS, so there should be union representation.”]
The CNA between the UP administration and the AUPAEU is different from the CNA between the university and the All UP Workers Union (AUPWU) – the latter concerns the university administrative staff. Both unions, however, negotiate to receive the benefits for the next five years covered in the CNA.
Demand for increased fringe benefits
Prof. Lanzaderas said that the fringe benefits that are usually included in the CNA were excluded in the negotiations. Fringe benefits refer to the benefits received aside from the salary of academic employees mandated by the government. These include the 13th month pay, grocery allowance, and Annual Incentive Grant (AIG), among others.
“Isa rin sa dahilan bakit na-delay [ang CNA] kasi pinilit ng UP administration na ilabas sa CNA [ang fringe benefits] dahil hindi raw ito dapat nasa CNA. Hindi pumayag ang union panel kasi kasama talaga dapat, pero dahil nga na-delay nang na-delay is nawalan tayo ng hold doon kaya ang nangyari ay pumayag na rin tayo, pero dapat may hiwalay na negotiation para sa fringe benefits,” he explained.
[“One of the reasons for the CNA’s delay is the UP admin’s insistence on excluding the fringe benefits in the CNA, because they believe that these are not supposed to be in the CNA. The union panel did not agree with them initially, but because of the constant delays, we lost hold and finally agreed on the condition that a separate negotiation for fringe benefits will be held.”]
Prof. Lanzaderas said that the union demands for the fringe benefits to be increased. He added that this is supposedly one of the reasons why the system administration refused to include them in the agreement.
The AUPAEU expressed their disappointment over the release of Memorandum No. PDLC 22-02 by UP President Danilo Concepcion, which details the payment of the first tranche of the AIG for faculty, REPS, and administrative staff.
“Una, mababa ito [AIG] kumpara sa matagal nang ikinakampanya at napag-usapan sa mga nakaraang negosasyon hanggang sa huling proposal ng ating Unyon […] Ikalawa, hindi man lang kinonsulta o nakipagpulong ang Administrasyon para sa nasabing benepisyo…” the union wrote.
[“First of all, the AIG is low compared to the amount being campaigned in the previous negotiations up to the last proposal presented by the union. Second, the administration did not even bother to consult or meet for the said benefit…”]
According to AUPAEU’s proposal, a total of P8,190 or 26% increase in the amount of fringe benefits is being demanded as the prices of goods continue to rise.
Prof. Lanzaderas said that the negotiation for fringe benefits started in January 2022 so that before the end of the first quarter of this year, faculty and REPS will already be granted these benefits.
Same needs, same demands
Aside from the delayed approval of the CNA, Prof. Lanzaderas said that the union’s calls last year still stand for this year.
“Actually, kung anuman ang ating mga panawagan noong nakaraang taon, hanggang ngayon ‘yon pa rin ang ating panawagan. Nangangahulugan lamang na hindi talaga pa rin natutugunan ng administration ‘yong basic na pangangailangan ng ating kaguruan, REPS, at administrative staff,” he said.
[“Actually, the calls we forwarded last year still stand now. This just means that the administration is yet to genuinely provided the basic needs of the faculty, REPS, and administrative staff.”]
He stressed that amid another COVID-19 suge, the union continues to demand for larger provisions of the Enhanced Hospitalization Programme (eHOPE), as it is not being used entirely by university employees.
Prof. Lanzaderas further said, “Nasa requirements para mapakinabangan mo ang eHOPE ay dapat ma-confine ka, so paano kung hindi ka nako-confine [but with COVID-19]?”
[“To benefit from the eHOPE, one should be confined in a hospital, so what if you are not confined but you contracted the virus?”]
(RELATED STORY: UPLB REPS disclose pandemic work woes; demand better pay, health benefits, tenureship)
The union also asked for a P20,000 increase in eHOPE for a total of P100,000, which the union panel and UP system administration panel agreed on in a Union-Management Monitoring Committee (UMMC) meeting last January 21. Both panels also agreed on outpatient services for the program.
In line with this, Prof. Lanzaderas added that the union is also calling for incentivizing employees who are making an effort to be healthy after two years in the pandemic situation.
“I-incentivize din dapat ang employees hindi dahil nagkakasakit sila kundi dahil malusog sila,” he said.
[“Employees should be incentivized not only because they got sick, but also because they remained healthy.”]
Right now, the eHOPE is still in the negotiation stage as part of the health and wellness package (HWP) proposal of the union. Also included in the HWP is the call for the P25,000 Emergency Economic Relief (ER) for all university employees.
In addition, Prof. Lanzaderas said that the call for Sagad Award solely for REPS still continues.
He said, “Karugtong ng pagpapalawak ng mga ina-awardan ng Sagad Award ay ang pagbubukas ng mga items sa ating mga REPS para magkaroon sila ng chance na umakyat ng level at hindi nila kailanganin agad ‘yong award.”
[“In line with the call to increase the number of REPS being awarded with the Sagad Award, we continue to demand for the opening of more items for REPS for them to be given a chance to advance in their level and not need the award so soon.”]
The P50,000 Sagad Award is being championed for REPS who cannot be promoted anymore, as they have already reached the maximum of eight steps in their salary grade.
Merit promotion allows REPS to be promoted at most two steps, ending at step eight. The Sagad Award is the equivalent of the merit promotion for REPS who are already in step eight but are still productive.
Limitations for contractual employees
Despite benefits on the side of regular UP employees, the union makes sure that contractual employees are not left behind by reminding the administration to grant the corresponding benefits for them.
The union fought for the inclusion of contractual employees, especially lecturers, in the grant of year-end incentives. However, the negotiation is much more difficult for other sectors like job orders (JOs) and agency-hired employees.
“Medyo gitgitang nakikipaglaban sa administration kasi tine-teknikal tayo [union] ng admin na hindi sila [contractual employees] sakop ng jurisdiction ng university dahil walang employer-employee relationship,” Prof. Lanzaderas said.
[“The negotiations with the administration is really tough because they rely on technicalities that contractual employees are not covered by the jurisdiction of the university due to the absence of an employer-employee relationship.”]
In addition, lecturers are also not covered for the Internet subsidy despite them having a teaching load, according to Prof. Lanzaderas. Because of the term employer-employee relationship, contractual lecturers are technically considered not regular employees in the university.
Aside from the limitations for contractual employees, Prof. Lanzaderas also revealed that the UPLB administration, particularly the offices concerned with granting the Internet subsidy, said that the months covering the midyear period were not included for the subsidy.
Their reason, according to Prof. Lanzaderas, is that the faculty who do not have midyear classes do not teach.
“Hindi raw included dahil walang turo ang teachers. Ang kitid naman ng tingin sa pagtuturo na parang hindi nagpe-prepare ang mga teachers sa mga susunod na semestre,” he added.
[“Midyear is not included because they said that the faculty do not teach. The way they look at teaching is very narrow-minded, as if teachers do not prepare for the next semester.”]
This issue on Internet subsidy was raised at the system-level.
Prof. Lanzaderas said that Vice President for Administration (VPA) Nestor Yunque assured them that months covering the midyear are included in the subsidy, but the release was still delayed until recently.
Prof. Lanzaderas informed the Perspective last February 24 that the faculty have already received the subsidy, according to the UPLB Accounting Office. This was after a follow-up by the academic union last February 21.
He also stressed that the faculty and REPS are delivering their tasks despite work concerns, so this service of releasing the Internet subsidy should benefit the academic employees on time.
Prof. Lanzaderas echoed this sentiment for the JOs and lecturers as well.
He said, “Kung hindi man mabigyan ng karampatang benefits ang mga JOs, pasahurin niyo naman nang tama sa oras. Pati mga incentives para sa mga lecturers noong 2021, marami pa ring hindi pa nakakatanggap sa case ng UPLB.”
[“If the right benefits for JOs cannot be granted, they should at least be compensated on time. There are still many lecturers who have not received incentives for 2021.”]
Prof. Lanzaderas reiterated a few of the union’s demands such as on-time distribution of salary and benefits, especially for contractual employees, as well as the continuous grant of benefits such as Internet and gadget subsidy, for those in the work-from-home setting. [P]
Photo from AUPAEU – LB
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