Xavier employees protest removal of Christmas cash gifts

Angelo Andrade, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 20 2016 10:29 PM

CAGAYAN DE ORO – A labor union of non-teaching employees are protesting the removal of Christmas cash gifts by a university in Cagayan de Oro.

Members of the Xavier University Non-Teaching Employees Labor Union (XUNTELU) have been staging a peaceful picket for three days straight at Plaza Divisoria, Cagayan De Oro after finding out that the school would not give out cash gifts this Christmas.

In a memorandum dated October 13, Fr. Roberto Yap, president of Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan announced that the school had unprecedented losses -- P160 million in school year 2014-2015 and P90 million in school year 2015-2016 -- prompting the administration not to give out cash gifts this year.

He added that due to the K to 12 transition, they are projecting a P199-million loss this school year.

“We have never seen losses this big and the reason is that our enrollment is falling from 16,313 in its peak during SY 2010-2011 down to 13,729 at present. Ever since it is going down and the expenses continue to increase,” Fr. Yap said.

But Maria Veronica Large, president of XUNTELU, and the union members do not believe this.

“Dili mi mutuo it’s losing. It's because they have savings na siya sa financial statement we get from BIR. Giscrutinize sa labor lawyer. Even muingon sila nga losing dili mi mutuo,” said Large.

(We don’t believe its losing. They have savings it is stipulated in a financial statement we get from BIR. It has been scrutinized by a labor lawyer. Even they say it's losing we don’t believe on that.)

The XUNTLEU is affiliated with the Associated Labor Union-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP).

ALU-TUCP regional vice president Atty. Nicandro Borja said the administration of the university is committing a violation for not giving cash gifts.

“Nag-violate sila sa non-diminution of benefits under Labor Code kay ila ng giwala ang dugay na nga benipisyo ang Christmas cash gift nga gidawat sa non teaching staff nga baynte ka tuig na ang nilabay ila pagdawat kalit lang undangan, tanggalon,” Borja said.

(They violated the diminution of a benefit under the Labor Code because they are going to take away a long time benefit that they are enjoying already for 20 years.)

But Yap argued that giving out cash gifts is a gratuity and not a benefit depending on the results of operations.

“This is a gift not an obligation. Help us if we can give more. Sure. But help us see where we will reduce so that we can give. Our projected budget deficit is 199 million so it would be irresponsible if we say we give but we can’t afford,” he said.

Department of Labor and Employment Region 10 Technical Support Services Division chief Atheneus Vasallo explained that a cash gift is a prerogative of a company or an institution based on the Labor Code.

But if it becomes a tradition given every year it turns into a benefit.

“Kani (cash gift) siya is company prerogative nga gihatag siya for the benefit of the worker. When it is given regularly every year, unya for the past six, seven, 10 years gihatag... it ripens into a company policy. Murag nahimo na siyang policy. Kung tangtangon automatically by the management nahimo siya og diminution of benefit, violation sa provision sa Labor Code," Vasallo said.

(The cash gift is a company prerogative for the benefit of the worker. When it is given regularly every year, for the past six, seven, 10 years it ripens into a company policy. If it will be taken out automatically by the management it is a diminution of benefit, violation in the provision of Labor Code.)

Because of the appeal of the XUNTELU the administration said they can give at least P1,000 to each of the 186 employees but the union declined the offer.

Last year, the school gave P4,000 as a cash gift to non-teaching employees, the lowest amount given in 20 years.

The case is still ongoing between the two parties at the National Conciliation and Mediation Board.