The decision of Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz rejecting the claim of ABS-CBN that there is no employer-employee relationship between the media network and the workers at the ABS-CBN Internal Job Market, as well as approving the union’s petition for a certification election, came after nine months of struggle and the dismissal of 90 unionists.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — A week after 35 more of their co-workers were terminated, bringing the total number of dismissed employees since they formed a union to 90, unionists belonging to the ABS-CBN Internal Job Market welcomed while on picket protest last Friday the approval of their petition for certification election with the labor department.
The approval issued by Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz reversed the decision last April of DOLE-NCR mediator-arbiter Catherine Legados-Parado denying the union’s petition for certification, on the grounds that there was no employer-employee relationship between ABS-CBN and IJM. The latter functions as an in-house pool of “talents” or employees, some of whom have been working with ABS-CBN for years, without being regularized on the job and without the commensurate benefits.
Alain Cadag, union vice-president, said they got the copy of the DOLE decision last August 20 although the decision was issued a week before, on August 13 or on the same day that 37 of his fellow unionists were fired. Two of them were later recalled and employed as regular workers.
Vindication of ABS-CBN Unionists
The 17-page decision of Baldoz rejected many claims of the ABS-CBN management in disowning the IJM employees.
Baldoz said the “talents” in the 1,400 IJM, as the employees are called by ABS-CBN management, cannot be considered as independent contractors because there is no specified timeframe to their contracts. The IJM workers, the decision said, are also regular employees because they perform jobs that are necessary and desirable to the business of ABS-CBN, which is broadcasting and production of programs, and they have been with the company for at least one year.
ABS-CBN is also prohibited from maintaining an “in-house agency” like IJM.
In the ABS-CBN IJMs’ picket protest held last Friday at the headquarters of the ABS-CBN in Quezon City, unionists who arrived to protest the “illegal dismissal” of 90 co-employees also welcomed the labor department’s decision.
“As directed, we would submit a complete list of members of the bargaining unit within 10 days,” said Cadag. He added that they don’t know how the ABS-CBN management would respond to the DOLE decision but he said the union would comply and push through with the certification election.
The New Battleground?
The IJMs’ recent victory at being declared by DOLE as regular employees of ABS-CBN with just reasons to form a union vis-à-vis ABS-CBN, the Philippines’ biggest and most profitable broadcasting company, has come at a price.
From June to last week this year, ABS-CBN has terminated members of the ABS-CBN IJM Workers Union because they refused to sign their names on various employment contracts that would have ultimately destroyed their union, the employer-employee relationship that they assert they have with the ABS-CBN, and the truly regular job status they sought in the first place.
Since April this year, when Parado denied their petition for certification election, the ABS-CBN management embarked on offering its IJM employees four different kinds of employment contracts. These supposed regularization offers, viewed now from the labor department’s latest decision, could help provide for ABS-CBN an excuse to circumvent DOLE’s prohibition for using contractual employees or for treating IJM as an in-house agency of non-regular “talents.”
The first regularization offered by ABS-CBN last June has been dubbed by the ABS-CBN IJM union as “bogus” and selective because it asked only a limited number of employees from a pool of longtime employees and also made them waive their previous demands, including accepting “regularization” starting only this year even if they have been employed in the company for at least five years or more.
The second employment offer to IJM involved “regular status” under long-term contracts, the third in “short-term contracts,” and the last in “per program” basis contracts. Employees who did not agree to these offers were summarily dismissed, in different batches.
In their previous statements, the ABS-CBN management through its corporate officer Bong Osorio claimed that they were complying with the law and moving on with those who agreed to the conditions. Osorio did not reply, however, to specific questions about contractualization, illegal dismissals and union-busting in ABS-CBN.
Cadag said one of their huge tasks now in the pre-election conference is asserting the reinstatement of “illegally dismissed 90 fellow unionists so they could vote” and ensuring “all union members could successfully participate in the certification election.” (Bulatlat.com)