NEGROS Occidental-based labor group General Alliance of Workers Associations (Gawa) has condemned in the strongest possible terms the declaration made by the management of Bacolod City Water District (Baciwa) on the "redundancy" of its 60 employees, its top official said.

Wennie Sancho, secretary general of Gawa, said when the so-called "joint venture agreement" between Baciwa and Prime Water was inked, it was not clear whether they recognized the Baciwa Employees Union (BEU) as the sole and exclusive bargaining agent of the water district.

Sancho said the joint venture was merely a ploy to convince the workers that their union is still the Sole and Exclusive Bargaining Agent (Seba) only to declare them as redundant now.

"These are some of union-busting strategies applied with a semblance of legality. This is a form of labor harassment and oppression," he said, adding that "Gawa perceives that the Board of Directors of Baciwa are union-busters."

In an order dated December 29, 2020, Baciwa acting manager Engineer Michael Soliva carried out the Board Resolution 181, directing him to prohibit the entry of 60 employees who were already declared "redundant" effective on the last working hour of December 31, 2020 to the office.

They are prohibited to enter the premises except for turnover of accountabilities and processing of clearance and other benefits.

To facilitate these purposes, the involved employees are required to fill out an appointment form available at the main lobby entrance. Only five employees per day are allowed, the order stated.

"The Prime Water Bacolod Security Guard assigned at the main lobby entrance shall be furnished with a copy of the names of the redundant employees with approved appointment to turn over the accountabilities and process the clearances," it added.

For the labor group, public sector unions are covered by the Labor Code and laws.

Its secretary general said their security of tenure should be protected by the state.

"We firmly believed that the workers are more important than profit and capital," Sancho said.

He stressed that as mandated by the Labor Code "dismissal of a duly elected union officer is tantamount to union-busting and the union can go on strike immediately, without observing the 15 days cooling-off period.

To prevent the union members from entering the workplace constitute a "lock-out" which is anti-labor and against the law, the labor leader added.

In a separate statement, the BEU has already condemned the move of the management.

"We stand firm in our belief that the grounds cited by the Board of Directors for our supposed redundancy have no basis in fact and in law and relies on the opinion of an agency which, because it was party to what, for all intents, was the surrender of public service to private interests, can hardly be relied on to undertake a sober and unbiased assessment of the situation," the union said.

"We are not leaving, we will not give up," it added.