The network said it is “not dismissing or retrenching employees.” Instead, it describes the dismissals as an “ongoing process.”
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — Since the employees of the Lopez-owned ABS-CBN’s internal job market (IJM) decided to form a union in March 2009, they thought that as employees of the giant network that calls everybody a “kapamilya” (family member), they would also be treated as such. But so far they have met only disappointment and “dirty tactics” as ABS-CBN belied the message of its own station ID in the course of denying them recognition and crushing the union.
One of the issues the union has been fighting for is regularization on the job. The thousand-strong IJM pool, composed mainly of seemingly “permanent contractuals,” comprise about half of the ABS-CBN workforce.
Now, as the profitable network engages in a series of regularization schemes that unionists have dubbed as “bogus,” “discriminatory” and the latest offer as “long-term contractualization,” the unionists are bracing themselves and urging the rest of the employees to “stand up for your rights, assert that the IJM employees should have been regular employees.”
Since June 17, some 41 employees of IJM have been terminated from their job or denied work schedules and access to the network’s compound over the issue of regularization and union-building.
But in a statement emailed to the media, Bong Osorio, head of corporate communication of ABS-CBN, said they are “not dismissing or retrenching employees.” Instead, Osorio describes what is happening as an “ongoing process” that is “not a mass termination or dismissal.”
Osorio explained that they “want to move on with the employees that want to work with us and help make us bigger and better.” He is referring to the selected employees in the thousand-plus IJM pool whom they recently offered with, and accepted, either long-term or program contracts.
This, however, constitutes “constructive dismissal,” said IJM unionists, because the “regularization package” is loaded with conditionalities that few self-respecting employee or unionist could swallow. For instance, wage reduction for the same job.
A Case of Contractualization
ABS-CBN is a leading media network in the Philippines with consistently rising profitability. Today it expects a “blockbuster” 2010 with net income likely doubling to P3.4 billion ($74,090,215), up from its earlier projection of P2 billion ($43,582,479), from P1.7 billion ($37,045,107) in 2009, which for its part represents a 23 percent increase from its net income in 2008 of P1.4 billion ($30,507,735).
ABS-CBN is owned by the Lopezes, one of the wealthiest Filipino families who supported President Benigno Aquino III’s campaign. It is also a family known for having recovered its wealth and stature through the help of the first Aquino administration. This network prides itself of its strong advocacies and public service.
But the network is apparently engaged in crushing the union of its IJM workers and continuing its drive to hire permanent contractual employees.
In a language that affirms what its workers have been complaining about before the Department of Labor and Employment, Osorio said: “The individuals in the IJM were engaged to render service under non-regular positions, which means they could freely work in two or more capacities within the network, and even outside ABS-CBN that will have a need for their talents and skills.”
But why are positions in IJM non-regular? The said IJM workers, according to its union, have been working with ABS-CBN for years already. “We should have been regularized long ago,” said Alain Cadag, vice-president of IJM workers’ union. “One year of continued service to the company is enough for us to be considered regular employees according to the Labor Code, and we are working for this company from 5-22 years already!”
The union also argues that there is really no “new regular positions” being created, because the ABS-CBN is offering it to existing IJM employees. “If they are really granting regular status to some IJM employees, then it follows they knew that the IJM is performing work that are necessary and desirable to the company,” the union said in a statement, adding that it is again another basis for regularizing all of the longtime employees with the IJM.
What and who is the IJM? Based on Osorio’s statement, the IJM is “a database of accredited technical or creative individuals” engaged to render service under non-regular positions. It is a “pool” from where ABS-CBN is now hiring for “limited regular posts.”
Before the labor department the ABS-CBN said it is the IJM that employs the individuals in IJM workers’ union, not ABS-CBN itself. This argument led to the non-recognition of the IJM workers’ union. But then Osorio said in his statement that the IJM “is not a labor agency of ABS-CBN.”
“Whether you call it as database or workpool, IJM is ABS-CBN. Who owns IJM? Who owns ABS-CBN? They are one and the same. We should not have been contractuals, we should have been regulars here,” said Cadag of the IJM Workers Union.
The union slammed the “improved packages” Osorio said they were offering with their “new regular positions.”
In a statement, the IJM workers’ union explained that they “refused their offers because (1) there is a waiver of pending cases against ABS-CBN; (2) the salary offered is (only) 50% of what we’re earning as IJM; (3) years of tenure are waived; and (4) it is a move to bust the union.”
Osorio said they are not union-busting but the union said the ABS-CBN management’s supposed regularization offers are calculated “to lessen our members to eventually bust the union.”
“ABS-CBN is moving in step with the ever evolving multi-media industry landscape, and we are treating this issue driven by the company values of fairness, honesty and transparency,” Osorio underscored in his statement.
The union said it hopes the management truly meant that. (Bulatlat.com)