By Edan Sam Pancho
Vol. XCI No. 8
Oct. 4, 2019
Before twilight sets in, banners painted in bright letters are placed beside the road at Silliman Avenue as the Silliman Union Faculty Association (SUFA) gathers again to have fellowship with faculty members as well as express their sentiments against the Silliman University (SU) Administration (Admin).
SUFA-Admin labor dispute
On July 2, SU filed a petition with regard to the labor dispute to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) regarding the SUFA-Admin issue. “We never knew that they filed a petition. From our motion of reconsideration, there was no chance for the union to say something otherwise, to say something about the petition. They filed that petition nonetheless; we knew about it on July 8,” said Asst. Prof. Jonathan Mark Te, SUFA acting president.
Last June 26, SUFA voted to go on strike after it declared a deadlock in the negotiating table of the 2016 collective bargaining agreement (CBA). To avoid disruption of classes, SU offered to have the deadlock resolved through voluntary arbitration as provided under the current CBA.
On July 8, DOLE’s order of the release of the assumption of the labor dispute came. Secretary of Labor Silvestro H. Bello III assumed jurisdiction over the labor dispute between SU and SUFA. The next day on July 9, there was a National Conciliation Mediation Board (NCMB) meeting. However, the assumption order now brings the labor dispute under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of Labor who will resolve the same in accordance with the law.
An official press release by the university on June 11 stated: “We believe in the wisdom of the Secretary of Labor in issuing the order and we are hopeful that with the guidance of his good office, we will be able to arrive at a mutually beneficial resolution of the labor dispute.” SU Admin chief negotiator Atty. Karissa Tolentino-Maxino added that the university is thankful for the assumption of jurisdiction order by the Secretary of Labor. She explained that there is nothing irregular with the assumption of jurisdiction by the Labor Secretary of the labor dispute.
On July 15, SUFA filed for a motion for reconsideration to DOLE with regards to their assumption of jurisdiction. According to Te, SUFA wanted to go back to the negotiating table with the Admin under the NCMB. DOLE’s response, however, has not yet arrived as of now. He reiterated this in the SUFA-Senior Admin meeting on Aug. 19 citing the Silliman Student Government’s plea to resolve the labor dispute for the welfare of the students. The said meeting is a non-negotiation meeting, in which the administration and SUFA discussed current issues that need addressing in the university.
Te, in an interview, said that the gathering of the union’s members termed kapihan along Silliman Avenue is an opportunity for the union to gather and update its members coming from different departments of the university. Its purpose is also to raise awareness to the alumni, students and people of the current situation. “The point of kapihan is not work disruption; it is the freedom of expression and expressing our sentiments,” he explained. Those teachers who have classes can continue with their lectures.
The members of the union gather every Monday and Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. This has been ongoing since the start of classes this year.
“We will continue to show the administration that the faculty is here; we are important and are hoping that the admin will realize the struggle,” Te said on plans for the gathering.
According to him, the CBA is a benefit to all academic personnel and even the administrators are supposed to enjoy all the benefits from the negotiation. SUFA, as of now, is still waiting for a response from DOLE. “We want this to be resolved which is the ultimate goal in a way that it is a negotiation,” he added.