USTFU President Assoc. Prof. Emerito Gonzales

Assoc. Prof. Emerito Gonzales, the new president of the UST Faculty Union (USTFU), vowed for a more “progressive” and inclusive union for the next five years during the oathtaking of newly elected USTFU officers and directors on March 17.

Gonzales, in his speech, said the union should learn from its past to improve moving forward.

“If we analyze seriously the history of USTFU’s significant progress in our working conditions —truth to tell—it was not secured by our silence or obeisance to authorities but by being transparent and collectively standing up for the truth and what is right,” he said.

Gonzales pledged to end the “suppression of free speech” within the union, which he said had demonized, humiliated, arrested and detained faculty members—including himself—for standing up “for the principle that the faculty deserves more from USTFU and the UST administration”

“Today, we end the practice of hiring security guards… and denying microphones during our general assemblies. Thus, today we also end the mindset that when members speak against the leadership they are quickly branded as ‘nanggugulo,’” he added.

Gonzales also said that all teachers and academic non-teaching personnel would be given full union support moving forward.

“No teaching and non-teaching academic personnel should be left behind; I believe we should extend our tent to non-tenured and even contractual faculty to afford them union protection as well. The long-term survival of USTFU especially in the age of contractualization, depends on the continuous enlargement of our membership.”

Collective bargaining talks

Gonzales said the USTFU would build “policy infrastructure” that would ensure that the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) would be negotiated on time.

“CBA provisions must work in favor of the faculty and respond to their various needs—including their health, hospitalization, and retirement benefits,” he said.

He also vowed to prioritize the immediate election of a new panel of negotiators for the 2021-2026 CBA within 100 days.

Talks with admin

In the next five years, Gonzales said he would strive to create “a working condition that is more meaningful, and more economically and psychologically rewarding” for faculty members in partnership with the UST administration.

He said he would talk to the Rector and the vice rector for academic affairs to discuss “pressing and crisscrossing issues related to online classes that do affect our working conditions including our mental health.”

Gonzales also said he would push for a labor education program for all USTFU members: “Tayong mga guro ay dapat actively engaged with government policy makers especially in the field of education, labor, and health [because] the policies from these agencies have adversely affected the terms and conditions of our employment and even our power to bargain collectively.”

Aside from these, Gonzales said he was also planning to review the USTFU constitution and draft resolutions amending the union’s Code for Election and Ratification within 100 days.

Robredo: Faculty must be empowered amid pandemic

Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo, who administered the oath of to the newly-elected officials and directors, commended the faculty members for being “strong pillars of support” to students despite anxieties and doubts brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic and the shift to virtual learning modalities.

“Isang taon na tayong nasa ilalim ng iba’t ibang antas ng community quarantine at alam kong hindi naging madali ito, lalo na para sa mga educator tulad ninyo. Sa public o private institution man, nakita natin kung gaano kahirap ang naging transition tungo sa mga bagong learning modalities,” she said.

“You need to be equipped with knowledge and skills, supported in every possible way and empowered moving forward to facilitate blended learning,” she added.

The vice president also called on USTFU to promote transparency and accountability.

“Build stronger relationships with one another and draw strength from each other. Mas pag-isahin ang hanay at mas palakasin ang boses ng isa’t isa… Orient yourself towards service, towards the Thomasian community and beyond— so that no student, no teacher, no community gets left behind.”

Pre-oathtaking drama

Prior to the oath taking ceremony, several newly elected officers and directors from the Kabalikat party released a letter stating concerns over the oath-taking event.

In the letter dated March 16, 16 Kabalikat members listed the alleged lack of official invitation from the USTFU Commission on Elections and USTFU Board, the lack of coordination with the outgoing board on arrangements and invitations, and the event being “unilaterally” decided by Gonzales “and a few others.”

They claimed the event was made known to the newly elected members through an informal meeting last March 12, only five days before the event. 

“The details of the oath-taking ceremony were already set prior to the [March 12] meeting and without the knowledge of the would-be committee members. This is supported by the fact that a detailed poster of the event was published online immediately after the meeting concluded,” the Kabalikat members said.

Gonzales responded to the letter, saying that the oath-taking ceremony was “thoroughly” discussed during the March 12 meeting, and that several of the incoming officers had reached out to him directly to inform him of their absence.

He added that the informal meeting was only deemed “unofficial” because they had yet to take their oath of office as new officers and directors when it was conducted.

Gonzales, who teaches at the Faculty of Arts and Letters, won the USTFU presidency and replaced Dr. George Lim, who led the union for 10 years.

Gonzales, along with all the newly elected officials and board of directors, will serve five-year terms until 2026.


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