Text by Clarizzah Tualla and Gillian Villanueva
ERRATUM: An earlier version of this article said that the two interns who filed the case were from the University of the Philippines, which makes the case a precedent of the Office for Anti-Sexual Harassment. The paragraphs which state that the case is under OASH have been removed. The UP OASH only handles sexual harassment cases if the students involved were from UP.
After two employees from the University Hotel were fired due to complaints of sexual harassment, the University Hotel Worker’s Union (UHWU) said they have not been fairly represented in the case and that the decision was not “humane.”
In protest, union members hung a tarpaulin along Aglipay street, in front of the University Hotel, which reads, “Dr. Grace Gregorio Union Buster ng UHWU.”
It has since been removed by order of the Resident Manager.
Dr. Grace Gregorio, chairman of the Board of Overseers of the University, denies the accusations, saying that the employees’ dismissal was the collective decision of the Board.
“I am the chair but when we make decisions for the University Hotel, let’s say on policies, it is always a collective decision of the board. So, if we do not have a majority among the board then we do not pass the decision. We discuss it exhaustively. So, I do not see the justice in branding me a union buster,” she said.
Facts of the case
The allegation started when, for the first time in the University Hotel history, two interns filed a sexual harassment case against the establishment’s workers, both of whom are members of the Union.
Gregorio said the investigation found evidence against the two employees, who have also admitted offense. According to her, one of the accused locked one of the students inside the bathroom with him, and on another instance touched their shoulders, kissed the student and looked at them lustfully.
“It was brought to our attention early February. [The accused employees] were issued a memo, and then they responded on February 6. Apparently, the sexual harassment incidents happened around January on several occasions,” said Gregorio.
Penalty for Sexual Harassment
The hotel’s code of conduct does not lay down specific degrees of sexual harassment. The Company Rules and Policy simply states, “sexual harassment as defined by law.” The Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995, however, does not specify the types of acts that fall under light, less grave, and grave offenses. Because of this, the penalty for sexual harassment is immediately dismissal, no matter the degree.
The UP Anti-Sexual Harassment Code of 2017, meanwhile, specifies the types of acts that fall under light, less grave, and grave offenses. Under light offenses, acts of sexual harassment committed by non-teaching personnel would only receive a reprimand and 1-month suspension as penalties, for the first offense.
In a plea bargaining agreement, Union President Jose Samonte said that the investigation committee, whom he was part of, offered that the two employees be given 1-month suspension instead of dismissal, based on the UP Anti-Sexual Harassment Code of 2017.
However, Gregorio said that it was the accused who asked to have the 1-month suspension penalty only, not the committee. The Board did not accept the offer and instead imposed a 3-month suspension for one employee and a 6-month suspension for the other.
“They didn’t realize how grave the offenses were,” said Gregorio.
She explained that the other was given 6-month suspension because his offense was more grave, with him being the one who locked the student in the bathroom.
“And he’s married,” she said. “The other one has been in service for 33 years. So, I don’t know why they didn’t realize the implications of their actions.”
The two employees did not accept the decision of the Board. Gregorio said that afterward, the union had hung the said tarpaulin accusing her of being a union buster.
The Union President decided to resign from the committee. He stated that all of the decisions of the committee will only be that of the management’s given how he was the only representative of the union.
Samonte questioned the decision of the Board to reject the recommendation of the committee to give a penalty of 1-month suspension to the employees.
They understand that the issue was not between the union and the management, but Samonte asks, “Hindi siya union-management related na issue, so ibig sabihin hindi dapat pakialaman at bumuo nga ng isang komite, pero bakit nung nagpresenta na ‘yung [investigation committee] ng desisyon nila, bakit ‘yung management ang nag-decide ng hatol?”
There was also no representative from the union present when it was determined whether there is a prima facie case based on the evidence, and during which the preventive suspension for the two employees was imposed.
This was against Article 4, Section 3 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), which states that a representative from the union along with the accused employees must be present during investigations. A prima facie case, as defined by the law, means that there is enough evidence before the trial to prove the case, unless a rebuttal is ensued by the other party.
Protest against Union Busting
Eventually, the remaining members of the committee recommended the dismissal of the two employees, which the board decided to uphold. The two employees were dismissed last April.
According to Samonte, the situation is already a form of union busting. “Kung ganitong klaseng mga kaso ang ipapataw sa‘min bilang manggagawa at company prerogative lahat ng i-impose, malulusaw kami kasi hindi kami part ng discussion. Laging magiging bias kasi hindi naman kami kasama sa decision-making,” he said.
“Kasi ito na ‘yung magiging nitsa pag hindi namin binangga ito, magiging precedent na siya, na mawawala na ‘yung union.”
Samonte also insisted that the employees are unaware of the possible acts that can be considered as sexual harassment. “At tsaka ‘yung kakulangan ng kaalaman ng manggagawa tungkol sa sexual harassment– ‘ni wala kaming seminar dito patungkol diyan,” he said. They were also not aware of the UP Anti-Sexual Harassment code and only heard of it during the hearing.
The Union President said that they do not tolerate the acts of the two employees, but they ask that the CBA and the Company Rules and Policy be followed by giving them proper representation. They also ask that the two employees not be dismissed, arguing that the offense was mostly verbal.
“Kung humatol ka, ‘yung makatao naman. […] ‘Yung taong natanggal, yung [suffering] nun, hindi lang naman siya eh, pati pamilya niya. Kabuhayan niya yung mawawala. Kaya gusto namin makatao naman yung hatol, hindi yung papatayin mo na yung tao kasi tatanggalan mo na siya ng karapatan na mabuhay, kasi tinanggalan ka na ng trabaho,” Samonte said.
Gregorio had filed a complaint against Samonte and four other union members that hung the tarpaulin. According to her, some of the members of the union did not know about the hanging, but Samonte argued that the hanging of the streamer was a collective decision of the union, agreed upon after several meetings.
He said that the main reason they pointed her out was because she was chairman of the board.
“Saan namin ibabato? Doon sa mga miyembro? Hindi. Dapat doon sa pinaka namumuno, kasi siya ‘yung nagpapatakbo. Kung kolektibo nila yun, pero ‘yung presiding officer ay siya, siya ‘yung magpapatakbo ng buong kapulungan,” he explained.
The union has since responded to the complaint, but for Gregorio, “they failed to address the points” raised in her complaint. “They were not even decent enough to respond to my complaint individually,” she stated. “It was a lousy letter.”
Samonte also said that they had initially planned to file a notice of strike, however, after going to the Department of Labor and Employment, they were advised to have a discussion with the management first. He said that they have already written a letter to the management to discuss the implementation of the CBA and the Company Rules and Policy. Samonte sees that the management and the union have different interpretations of the CBA, especially in the occurrence of this case.
Currently, the dismissed employees are now seeking to be reinstated into the hotel. Gregorio and Samonte are also both await the result of the complaint filed by the former.
UPDATE: Employees reinstated after sexual harassment case
The two University Hotel employees who were dismissed due to a sexual harassment case were reinstated by the Board of Overseers of the University last May 28, Tuesday.
According to Dr. Grace Gregorio, chairman of the Board, they have reconsidered the appeal of the two employees “out of humanitarian consideration and on the basis of reformat justice.”
She retains that it was not the actions of the University Hotel Workers’ Union (UHWU) that caused the decision.
The reinstated employees must still serve a 3-month suspension penalty, which started on the date of their dismissal, April 4. They will also be undergoing counseling from either the Office of Anti-Sexual Harassment or Center for Women’s Studies and must write an apology letter towards the victims.
The employees must also sign an undertaking wherein they will no longer take any action against the University Hotel regarding the case.
Gregorio also said that Jose Samonte, President of the union, has apologized for their hanging of the streamer which labeled her a “union buster.”
Samonte had called the decision unfair after the offer to give 1-month suspension as penalty during the plea bargain was rejected by the Board.
Gregorio had filed a complaint against those who hung the streamer but stopped pursuing it after the management ordered the said banner to be taken down. She, however, argues that the Facebook page of the union still contains a post that carries the same claim.
The employees, who are both union members, were dismissed after two interns filed a complaint for sexual harassment against them. TNP