THE UST Faculty Union (USTFU) has asked the Supreme Court to reconsider its July decision junking the union’s P26-million claim for hospitalization and medical benefits for the years 1997 to 2003.

USTFU filed its motion for reconsideration last Sept. 15, arguing that the high tribunal made an error in holding that the claims of USTFU were barred by prescription or the period set by law within which the claims could be made, and that USTFU was not entitled to the medical benefits.

The dispute between USTFU and UST is over how much the latter would contribute to the former’s hospitalization and medical benefits fund, and whether it should be one-time or cumulative, given the annual increase in tuition.

USTFU had petitioned for the Supreme Court to reverse and set aside the Court of Appeals’ decision in 2012, which ruled against the union for bringing the case to a labor arbiter instead of first seeking voluntary arbitration, and to reinstate the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) decision in 2011, in which UST was ordered to remit to the union P80-million worth of hospitalization and medical benefits, and P8 million in attorney’s fees.

According to the union’s interpretation of the 1996-2001 collective bargaining agreement (CBA), UST’s contributions should be given annually on top of new contributions because economic benefits like hospitalization and medical benefits fund are sourced from annual tuition increases. By law, 70 percent of tuition hikes go to teachers’ salaries.

USTFU sought a total of P105 million for hospitalization and medical benefits fund for academic years 1996-1997 until 2010-2011. The University, it claimed, had a P26-million balance after remitting P79 million.

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USTFU claimed that the University was supposed to pay P2 million not only in the first year of the 1996-2001 CBA but also in the subsequent years, along with an additional P1 million for every year and P4 million for the fourth and fifth years of the CBA due to a memorandum of agreement on economic provisions in 1999.

UST remitted P2 million during the first year of the 1996-2001 CBA, P1 million in the second year, P1 million in the third year, and P4 million in the fourth year. The University also released a total of P31 million under the 2001-2006 CBA and P40 million under the 2006-2011 CBA.

Last July 30, the high tribunal ruled in favor of UST, saying there there was no “carry-over” or cumulative provision for the hospitalization and medical benefits fund in the 1996-2001 CBA and the 1999 memorandum of agreement. The carry-over provision is found only in the 2001-2006 and 2006-2011 CBAs.

Moreover, the union’s complaint was “too late” since causes of action for unfair labor practice expire after one year, while money claims within employee-employer relations expire after three years.

USTFU told the Supreme Court that its claims were not barred by prescription since UST likewise did not file a motion to dismiss on time, which was before the date set for mandatory conciliation and mediation conference according to Section 7 of the 2011 NLRC Rules of Procedure.

UST filed a motion to dismiss the union’s complaint on Dec.12, 2007 on the ground that the labor arbiter lacked jurisdiction on the case.

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The union further argued that since its claims were not barred by prescription, the decision of the labor arbiter and the NLRC should be considered final, and that the “running of the prescriptive period” should be deemed interrupted when the two parties availed themselves of the voluntary mode of dispute settlement under the CBA.

USTFU had raised its concern to the Permanent Union-University Committee (PUUC), a body formed under the 1996-2001 CBA to thresh out problems between UST and USTFU. However, the PUUC failed to resolve the dispute, forcing USTFU to sue.

UST Law Dean Nilo Divina said the University was confident the Supreme Court would sustain its decision. “We will file a comment to the motion for reconsideration. We are confident that we will be sustained by the Supreme Court,” Divina said.

The Varsitarian sought USTFU Vice President for Legal Affairs Noel Asiones for comment, but he declined.

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