Radio reporters, employees slam harassment, network refusal to negotiate CBA

Workers accuse state security forces as behind the blatant surveillance on their activities. They said these coincided with their struggle to assert their right to renegotiate for a new CBA with the RMN management.


MANILA – A conflicting view on the state of private sector workers turns up in Mindanao this week as Labor Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz expressed optimism last Sept. 1 about the department’s new Labor Law Compliance System. At a bull session of Mindanao-based labor laws compliance officers (LLCOs) held in Cagayan de Oro City over the weekend, she said the feedback and response they are getting on the system “indicate that generally, private business establishment owners are willing to comply with the country’s labor laws.”

Picket protest in front of RMN station in Davao, Sept. 4 (Photo courtesy of KMU SMR)
Picket protest in front of RMN station in Davao, Sept. 4 (Photo courtesy of KMU SMR)

Yet, on the same day, in Mindanao, too, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) Davao City Chapter condemned the harassment of workers belonging to the Radio Mindanao Network (RMN) Davao Employees Union (RDEU). The latter are gearing for a strike as the RMN management has reportedly refused to open renegotiations for the collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

The labor department’s Bureau of Labor Relations defines the CBA as “a contract executed upon request of either the employer or the exclusive bargaining representative of the employees incorporating the agreement reached after negotiations with respect to wages, hours of work and all other terms and conditions of employment, including proposals for adjusting any grievances or questions under such agreement.” Negotiating for a CBA is one way for workers to get a share of their company’s profits, which government-mandated wage hikes often do not address. Workers form unions to negotiate for a CBA, to implement programs and hold mass actions including a strike, all of which are recognized as their rights under Philippine laws.

But respecting these rights are not mentioned in Labor Secretary’s latest announcements that “business establishments are willing to comply with labor laws.”

Seeking wage hike a crime?

Jessie Casalda, chairperson of NUJP Davao City Chapter, said three RMN workers received similar text messages identifying the three radio workers and two unnamed technicians as involved in activities with the communist movement.

The text message said the five attended a “basic party course” and are being subjected to an “Oplan (Operation Plan) Princes”.

In another incident last Tuesday, union members reportedly took note of an unidentified man shooting video footages of their protest action at noon time, at close range of about a meter away. When asked, the man taking videos replied he just wanted to “take a remembrance” of the protesters.

After taking video footages, he boarded a sports utility vehicle with no license plate and sped off, said the unionists. They reported that two other people were also seen taking videos and they also took off on a motorcycle after.


Workers accuse state security forces as behind the blatant surveillance on their activities. They said these coincided with their struggle to assert their right to renegotiate for a new CBA with the RMN management.

“Such attacks are like a death sentence to media workers who have legitimate demands for better wages, rights and working conditions,” Casalda of NUJP said in a statement. The media group has condemned the harassment and demanded an investigation.

Aside from the fact that the apparent refusal of RMN management to start negotiating for a new CBA puts a question to Baldoz’s claims about labor law compliance, the RMN unionists raised other complaints which further contradict the labor department’s claim.

The RMN management has been hiring contractual workers in violation of the CBA, said the Radio Mindanao Network (RMN) Davao Employees Union (RDEU).

All these management actions have prompted the RDEU to vote unanimously to hold a strike due to the company’s “refusal to bargain, unfair labor practice and union busting.”

The NUJP Davao urged the Department of Labor and Employment to address the demands of the RDEU workers and to compel the RMN management to begin the re-negotiations of the CBA. Quoting the International Federation of Journalists, Casalda said “There can be no press freedom if journalists exist in conditions of corruption, poverty or fear”.

If DOLE compels the RMN management to comply with labor laws and respect its employees’ rights, Casalda said, it could help toward improving the plight of Filipino journalists, who have been described as “one of the most poorly paid workers in the country” even if the work they do is “one of the most dangerous.”

The same RDEU has successfully held an eight-day strike two years ago, after which it hailed the RMN’s “reversal of hardline stance to the workers’ collective action and militant spirit.” Because of the strike, the RMN management agreed to grant its radio workers P40 and P20 wage hike for 2012 and 2013, respectively, plus two sacks of rice a year, a signing bonus of P2,500, one daily meal subsidy, and the provision to adopt the last-in first-out treatment should any retrenchment occur. The two-year CBA package benefited 22 RMN Davao employees.

RMN is one of the largest radio networks in the Philippines with almost 60 company-owned AM & FM radio stations all over the country. Its first radio station was established in Cagayan de Oro in Mindadao this month in 1952. Despite its nationwide operations, its workers are not yet covered by a national union, as its employees were forced to form a union per city where it operates. In Manila two years ago, radio workers’ attempts to establish a union were met with the firing and slapping of cases against leaders. (

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