60 Bacolod employees fired as Villar firm takes over public water utility

Employees of the Bacolod City Water District condemn their termination. (Photo courtesy of BACIWA Employees Union)

Federation of government employees unions COURAGE said the dismissal of 60 employees violated the constitutional and legal rights of government employees to security of tenure.

By RAYMUND B. VILLANUEVA
Bulatlat.com
MANILA – On Jan. 4, the first Monday of the year, 60 employees of the Bacolod Water District were barred from entering the office’s premises.

Bacolod City Water District (BACIWA) Employees Union President Leny Espina was among those who found themselves jobless, after the BACIWA Board of Directors declared their positions redundant on Dec. 31.

In a privilege speech, Jan. 8, Bacolod City Councilor Wilson Gamboa said the move is a grave abuse of authority by the directors of the local water utility.

Gamboa noted that the termination came after the public water utility signed a controversial Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) with private water utility firm PrimeWater, which is owned by the family of Senator Cynthia Villar.

“These members of the BACIWA Board of Directors believed that they are the absolute authority by issuing arbitrary, capricious, and illegal resolutions and orders which completely gave PrimeWater total supervision and control over its management, operations, collections, and the trampling of employees’ rights. Now, they have evolved as the henchmen of PrimeWater,” Gamboa said.

Gamboa said the BACIWA Board could not declare the workers’ positions as redundant when PrimeWater would hire private employees as replacement, including the fired employees who would be “reabsorbed” should they take Option 2 of the proffered retirement package.

The legislator also said the “evil and crooked” BACIWA directors failed to conduct proper consultation with the affected employees.

“[The workers’] rights and tenure must be protected against an unjust, inhuman, and illegal order of the Board of Directors of BACIWA who acted as the corporate carpetbaggers and collaborators of PrimeWater,” Gamboa said.

Violation of rights of government employees

Santiago Dasmariñas, Jr., national president of federation of government employees unions COURAGE, said the dismissal violated the constitutional and legal rights of government employees to security of tenure.

COURAGE) and the Water System Employees Response (WATER) also launched a nationwide campaign to have the dismissed employees reinstated.

He added that the dismissal was also meant to quell legitimate protests against the privatization of local water services.

“We ask the Duterte government to stop privatization of local water services and put laid off public sector workers back to work!” Dasmariñas said.

Ramir Corcolon, WATER secretary general, asked the government to put the welfare of people above business interests.

“Experience has shown that privatization of water only led to more expensive but still poor, or even poorer, water services. Greed should not reign over the right of the public to affordable and quality water services,” Corcolon said.

According to Ibon Foundation, water rates in Metro Manila have gone up by 83 to 90 percent since the privatization of Manila Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).

Espina vowed that the union will continue to stage actions in front of the BACIWA office every day along with other Bacolod City supporters in protest of their dismissal and the takeover of the public water utility. “Only then can we achieve just and lasting peace.” ()

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