AEWU to proceed with strike vote

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AFTER FAILING to reach a deal on the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the Ateneo administration, the Ateneo Employees and Workers Union (AEWU) will proceed with a strike vote today, January 23.

Continuous disagreements on the CBA despite several conciliation meetings led AEWU President Sonny Amata to call out the administration for “not [being] serious to negotiate,” and using “delaying tactics.”

He claimed that administration was not able to give their “recomputation” in their last meeting, as previously agreed upon.

If majority of the union members vote “yes,” the strike may take place on or after January 30. Amata said that they are letting at least seven days pass before proceeding with the strike in case there is a “development” in the negotiations.

The proceedings will begin at 9:00 AM, and the vote will be done via secret balloting, Amata said.

Statement on strike vote

According to a statement by AEWU, there had been four conciliation meetings, wherein the conciliator focused on the general increase GI) and merit increase (MI), but Ateneo rejected the conciliator’s proposals for being “too high.”

AEWU said that they submitted a “substantially reduced wage increase (7% general increase and 7% merit increase),” while Ateneo gave “an ‘improved offer’ of an additional Php 25 for GI and an additional Php 25 for the MI for the first year of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) while giving no improvement in its offer of GI and MI for the second year of the CBA.”

The statement also said that the Ateneo is a non-stock, non-profit organization, and that their income should be reinvested into its operations, which includes the “payment of just and equitable salaries and benefits for its salaries, union or non-union.”

They also maintained that the legally-mandated 70% allocation from the tuition fee increase (TFI) is not the only source for wage increases and benefits.

Ateneo releases explainer

Following AEWU’s statement and protest, the Ateneo administration panel posted an infographic on the current state of CBA negotiations.

According to the infographic, the union comprises of 246 members or 8% of the total employee population. Union members’ monthly salary ratio compared with the rest of the University’s employees is at 5.18% or at Php 6.9 M.

Ateneo said that this ratio is the basis for determining the union’s share in the 70% allocation from the tuition fncreases. Based on Ateneo’s estimates, proceeds from the tuition fee increase for the period covering Year 4 and Year 5 of the CBA will be Php 87.6 M and Php 94.9 M, respectively.

With their 5.18% share in the tuition increases, the union’s share will be at Php 4.5 M and Php 4.9 M, respectively.

According to Ateneo, the administration’s current offer to the union will cost Php 5.3 M and Php 5.2 M for Years 4 and 5, respectively. Meanwhile, the total cost of the Union’s offer is at Php 16.4 M and Php 16.7 M for Years 4 and 5 of the CBA, respectively.

“The total cost of the Union’s proposal is more than 3x the offer of the administration,” Ateneo said.

Ateneo also maintained that their offers for the CBA is almost similar to AEWU’s proposal. However, they may not be able to provide the GI and MI figures that AEWU is demanding.

Proceeding with strike

The 30-day “cooling-off” period after AEWU’s filing of a notice of strike ended on January 21. After this period, AEWU may proceed with the strike vote. Should majority of the union vote “yes,” the strike may start on or any time after January 30.

“Ang strike ay pinagbobotohan ng mga miyembro under the supervision of DOLE [Department of Labor and Employment], at kapag nag-majority ang nag-“yes,” edi tuloy ang strike (The strike will be voted by the members under the supervision of DOLE, and if majority says “yes,” the strike will proceed),” said Amata via text message.

Though the workers will not work and thus, not be paid during their strike, Amata said that the union had collected funds of roughly Php 500,000 to “support their needs.”

Meron kaming kinolektang pondo. Magsimula CBA [deadlock], nag-collect kami ng strike fund (We have collected funds. Since the CBA deadlock, we collected strike funds),” Amata told The GUIDON.

He added, “We will launch this, basta sinaraduhan kami ng pinto ng pakikipag-usap. Tutuloy namin ‘to (We will launch this if they close doors to negotiation. We will continue this).”

Amata said that Ateneo cannot hire contractual workers to take their place during the strike, as it is “illegal.”

He said that the union is ready to take legal action should the situation occur.

Past negotiations

In reference to past negotiations, Amata claimed that AEWU members were allocated 8.7% from the Tuition Fee Increase (TFI) around 2008 or 2009, but the figure went down to 4.7%. Though Ateneo proposed an increase to 5.9%, Amata said that AEWU still demands a higher figure because they “represent 7 point something in the total community.”

“‘Yung trend ng pakikipag-negosasyon sa araw, makikita mo, ang laki ng pagbabago. Drastic ‘yung pagbaba niya (The trend of negotiations back then, you will see that there are a lot of changes. The decrease is drastic),” Amata said.

In 2014, the AEWU also filed a notice of strike after a deadlock in negotiations. However, a CBA was signed before any strike occured.

The last two years of the 2014-2019 CBA (Years 4 and 5) is currently under negotiation, as the social and economic provisions (including wages) expired last May. Formal negotiations between the administration and AEWU panels started last June.

Amata also said that though they are “powerless” in facing the administration panel, he will still continue to fight for the workers’ demands.

“Hindi namin [sila] kayang talunin when it comes to number and money. Mauubusan ba sila? Nasa kanila ang kaban. Kami, nanghihingi,” he said.

(We cannot beat them when it comes to number and money. Will they run out? They have the resources. We are asking.)

The Ateneo administration panel, however, has repeatedly said that they are negotiating in “good faith.”

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