A deadlock was reached in the negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement after TV5 management refused to include in the talks its policy to declare certain positions as redundant.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – On Dec. 17 and Dec. 18, the management and the employees’ union of TV5 have twice been called by the labor department for mediation talks following last Friday’s filing by the union of a notice of strike. The television employees in this network controlled by a business conglomerate under Manuel V. Pangilinan have filed a strike notice after their collective bargaining negotiation reached a deadlock. The deadlock in the negotations for a new collective bargaining agreement resulted from the company’s policy of declaring certain regular positions as redundant, asking the employees in these positions to resign, and then replacing them with lower paid contractual or third-party-hired employees.
The union has been opposed to the policy and has reportedly tried to thresh it out with the management via a grievance procedure before taking it up in their collective bargaining negotiation. However, TV5 management refused to talk about it in the negotiations, insisting that the “non-economic” provision should not be a part of the initial phase of the CBA.
In a statement, Elmer “Bong” Labog, chairman of labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno, expressed their group’s support for the struggle of TV5 employees. He urged the public to support the employees as well. “Capitalists have always tried to exclude job security in negotiations for CBAs so they can continue to contractualize their work forces,” said Labog.
The labor leader also said that the TV5 management’s willingness to talk about a wage hike should not be a reason to refuse to talk about workers’ job security, saying that both issues are of utmost importance to workers.
The Associated Broadcasting Company Employees Union (ABCEU), labor union in TV5, was quoted as saying that while TV5 management seems “more than willing to talk about wage hike, what good would it be if, the next day, you no longer have a job?”
Sacrificing workers for profitability?
TV5 has been trailing the top two rival networks ABS-CBN and GMA7 in ratings and consequently in advertising revenues. During the past two years, it has incurred losses. Reports quoted its executives as saying that they project to earn profits only beginning next year, or even the year after that.
But it appears that part of the plan to gain profitability is cost-cutting. Early this year, the broadcasting network has started offering an early retirement package to its employees.
In other large companies such as the Philippine Long Distance Company, the telecom giant that owns and funds the operations of TV5, early retirement packages have been derisively called by workers as a “sweetened poison pill.” The said packages have reduced by the thousands the number of regular workers there over the years; unionists complained that retirees were not replaced by new regular workers, but instead, by agency-hired or lower paid contractual workers.
The TV5 employees’ union has also said upon filing their strike notice: “Our fear is that in the near future this could eventually lead to massive contractualization.”
KMU said the Associated Broadcasting Company Employees Union or ABCEU is right in asserting that workers’ job security be upheld and that the renaming of the departments and positions in the company be included in ongoing negotiations for a Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The labor center has also been urging the Department of Labor and Employment to scrap its Order No. 18-A Series of 2011, which it calls as the Aquino government’s “policy for legalizing contractual employment.” As it is, the country’s Labor Code, said KMU, has vested the labor secretary “the immense power to define contractual employment.”
Labog said contractual employees often receive lower wages, are denied benefits, and can be removed from work anytime, making it difficult for them to exercise their trade-union rights. The growing trend toward contractualization has also been blamed for the decline in the number of unionized workers in the Philippines, and consequently, the decline in workers’ ability to press for wage hikes and better working conditions.