BACOLOD CITY–A total of 60 employees of the Bacolod City Water District were dismissed from their jobs and barred from entering the premises of their office on Monday.
The employees were supposed to resume their regular work today after the holidays but were told by security personnel that they were no longer connected with the water utility provider.
Michael Soliva, acting general manager of BACIWA, issued an order that terminated the services of the said employees effective December 31, 2020.
Soliva cited a resolution passed by the Board of Directors on December 23, which qualified the employees as “redundant.”
In a termination letter dated December 28, 2020, the employees were instructed to turn over their respective accountabilities to the new management and process their clearances immediately. They were also prohibited from occupying any office or loitering in the premises if not processing their separation from the service.
In a statement, the BACIWA Employees Union said the employees who wished to remain employed by BACIWA were declared redundant after they declined the two options offered to them: apply for employment at PrimeWater as a private entity or accept the early retirement incentive plan.
The early retirement option, according to the union, was “utterly inappropriate, perhaps even illegal, but certainly immoral,” adding that they see it as “little more than a bribe to entice government workers to end their public service.”
“We stand firm on our belief that the grounds cited by the Board of Directors for our supposed ‘redundancy’ have no basis in fact and in law and rely on the opinion of an agency which, because it was party to what was, for all intents, 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.
It added, “While we acknowledge that the Board is the policy-making body, it is our conviction that it does not possess the authority to dictate our terms of employment, which are subject to and protected by the Civil Service.”
The union also stated that “Water is a God-given natural resource that should be utilized and preserved for the people, not a commodity to be profited from by vested interests. We resolve to remain true to our vows as public servants: we are not leaving, we will not give up!”
Councilor Wilson Gamboa Jr., lead convenor of Amlig Tubig, said the terminated employees should stand up for and protect their rights.
“The affected employees are still covered by the Civil Service Commission despite the joint venture agreement, and only the agency has the right to terminate these workers,” Gamboa said.
He added that the BOD “does not have the authority to axe anyone without due process. Their action is totally illegal.”
Gamboa said that he will file a resolution at the city council calling for an immediate investigation of the action of the BACIWA board.
In July last year, BACIWA signed a 25-year Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) with Prime Water Infrastructure Corporation for the management and development of the water district.
By November 16, PrimeWater had taken over the BACIWA management.
Lawyer Lorendo Dilag, chairman of the BACIWA board, had said PrimeWater will infuse a total of P6.8 billion in terms of projects, including P1.6 billion for the first five years for the pipe laying and repairs. He claimed P2 billion would be invested in the fifth year and the rest in the last remaining years of the JVA./(Eugene Y. Adiong/INews-Bacolod/Negros Bureau)