SUSPENSION OF CLASSES DURING A CALAMITY: THE UPANG EXPERIENCE

By Jemuel D. Caburian

 

            From August 15 to 17, 2016 classes from all levels in Dagupan City were suspended due to heavy rains brought about by southwest monsoon or habagat. Such class suspensions were declared by the Mayor of the City of Dagupan, Hon. Belen T. Fernandez.On those dates students of University of Pangasinan (UPANG) were not required to attend classes as the school is situated in the same locality.

             On August 18, 2016 upon the resumption of classes in the tertiary level at (UPANG), onefaculty member came to the office of the University ofPangasinan Faculty Union (UPFU) and asked if he still need to file emergency leaves of absence on the days when classes were suspended due to heavy rains. It was found out later that the faculty member concerned was not alone. There are other faculty members in the University who have the same concern.

             In response to their concern, the UPFU reiterated that it has already an agreement with the Management that in case classes are suspended due to calamities there is no need for the teaching personnel to report for work, provided that they will inform their department heads/deans through text (SMS) or email that: (a) their situation during the calamity is not allowing or permitting them to report for work; and (b) they will be doing their teaching-related works (i.e. checking, recording, researching, etc.) in their homes.

             In the September 8, 2016 meeting of the Executive Board of the UPFU it was suggested that UPFU’s agreement with the Management governing suspension of classes due to a calamity be reduced into writing. It was recalled that the said agreement was made a couple of years ago and the same has not yet put into writing nor incorporated in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. This suggestion was predicated on the report of a union officer present during the meeting that the faculty members in one college were required by their dean to report for work despite the local government’s declaration of suspension of classes on August 15 to 17, 2016 as per declaration of Mayor Fernandez. It was raised in the meeting that probablythe dean concerned wasnot aware of the existence of such agreement between the UPFU and the Management. Hence the need for the agreement to be reduced into writing so that it can be duly published or circulated in the University.


 

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        Reflecting on this experience at UPANG, this question came to the mind of this writer: Does the “no workno pay policy” apply to teachers, particularly the part-timers, who failed to report for work during the days when classes were suspended due to a calamity?” He found the case of Jose Rizal College v. NLRC (G.R. No. 65482, Dec. 1, 1987) as basis for answering the question, although this case resolved the issue whether or not part-time teachers are entitled topayment on Special Public Holidays --- even if unworked. In this case the Supreme Court had this opinion:

            “It is readily apparent that the declared purpose of the holiday pay which is the prevention of diminution of the monthly income of the employees on account of work interruptions is defeated when a regular class day is canceled on account of a special public holiday and class hours are held on another working day to make up for time lost in the school calendar. Otherwise stated, the faculty member, although forced to take a rest, does not earn what he should earn on that day. Be it noted that when a special public holiday is declared, the faculty member paid by the hour is deprived of expected income…. Similarly,when classes are called off or shortened on account of typhoons, floods, rallies, and the like, these faculty members must likewise be paid, whether or not extensions are ordered. [Italicized for emphasis.]

            If a teacher is permitted or required by the Management to report for work on days when classes suspended or called off due to a calamity and he or she reported for work, is he or she entitled to additional compensation? There is no express provision in the Labor Code that deals with this situation. However, the Labor Code in Articles 93 and 94 entitles an employee to be paid an additional compensation where he or she was made or permitted to work during regular and special holidays. By analogy, can we apply these provisions of the Labor Code in answering the question? Readers are encouraged to consult experts in labor law about their opinion on this matter.