By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — One of the Philippines’ leading and most profitable broadcasting network the ABS-CBN claims to regard everybody as “kapamilya” (family member). But to its employees’ extreme disappointment last Wednesday April 14, they found themselves practically disowned by the company they have been working for when their newly formed union’s petition for certification election was refused on the grounds that they are “not employees of ABS-CBN but of another entity, the ABS-CBN IJM.”
The members of the broadcasting network’s Internal Job Market workers’ union representing 1,400 employees learned of the news in a rally in front of the offices of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) – National Capital Region last Wednesday, when they followed up on the petition they had filed since November last year.
According to its union members, the workers’ pay slips, Identification cards, Income Tax Returns and other proof of employment are issued and controlled by the ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation itself—“enough proof that it is the employer of the workers.” All of them also report to the ABS-CBN headquarters as well as perform different and essential jobs for its programs. The union further argued that the ABS-CBN IJM entity does not exist under the Securities and Exchange Commission, only the ABS-CBN company.
Not Employees, Just “Talents”
The DOLE-NCR, through mediator-arbiter Catherine Parado, ruled in favour of the ABS-CBN management’s denial concerning the employer-employee relationship between ABS-CBN and its workers, whom the network refers to as “talents” hired through the IJM.
‘Talents’ in show business often refer to artists (from actors to singers, dancers, hosts and even broadcasters) or people who appear on TV shows or on radio programs, which are the “products” of the network. These talents, with varying degrees of stardom, usually work according to a contract. Based on their popularity, they command “talent fees,” compared to employees working behind cameras who get wages. In Philippine show business, these artist-talents can work long hours according to deadlines, sometimes even up to 24 hours at any given time.
Are the employees working behind cameras “talents” like these stars, too? These people, such as the members of ABS-CBN IJM, work even longer hours, as it is their job to not only record with the ‘talent’ stars but also to do post-production work. Unlike the talent-stars, employees have no managers to haggle talent fees for them.
In fact, according to some ABS-CBN employees who declined to be named, these employee “talents” used to be regular employees until the late nineties, when the Lopezes stopped regularizing behind-the-camera employees and instead started to redirect them to ABS-CBN’s IJM.
Since then, the membership of the union of rank and file employees in ABS-CBN reportedly began to dip, as its would-be members became part of non-unionized IJM instead.
But last year, these ABS-CBN IJM employees have finally formed themselves into a union. In a statement, they said they are pushing for the provision of the legally-mandated 13th month pay, overtime and holiday pay, and for the regularization of IJM workers, among others.
“Through our union, we have already succeeded in asserting that the company pays for our Christmas bonuses,” said Antonio Perez, ABS-CBN IJM Workers union president. He added that the ABS-CBN management just wanted to crush their union to prevent them from asserting furtther their rights. They say the network fears that that could slash a little of its “gigantic profits.”
“The DOLE-NCR ruling cited arguments raised by ABS-CBN using precedents decided only by the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), while it refused to cite our union’s arguments using Supreme Court precedents and decisions that are final and executory. Legally, they cannot disprove our status as employees of the network, and thus our rights to establish a union,” Perez said in a statement.
The union is set to file an appeal against the DOLE-NLRC decision. They also said they are gearing up for more collective actions “to urge DOLE and management to recognize us as ABS-CBN workers, with a right to form a union.”
“They boast that every Filipino is their ‘kapamilya’ (family), but they disown the workers right in their own yard,” Perez said. (Bulatlat.com)