“Ninety-nine percent of the guidelines during strikes expressly provide what the workers are prohibited to do. There is no corresponding magnitude of responsibility that refers to how the management should behave when a strike is declared.”
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – A recent development in the strike of radio workers in one of the oldest radio stations in the Philippines raises questions on the country’s labor laws. Gina Hitgano, president of the RMN Davao Employees Union (RDEU), said, “Ninety-nine percent of the guidelines during strikes expressly provide what the workers are prohibited to do. There is no corresponding magnitude of responsibility that refers to how the management should behave when a strike is declared.”
In a statement emailed to media yesterday by RMN Davao Employees Union (RDEU), it lamented how the laws seem disproportionately skewed against workers.
Currently on strike, the union has complied with the guidelines for conducting a lawful strike. With its daily stream of visiting supporters in all of its three strike camps (in Anda-Madapo-Shrine Hills), the strikers “are gathering peacefully in the picketline.”
Despite this, the strikers find themselves the target of “demonization” or smear campaigns, which they traced to RMN management.
Aside from fending off police blotters, the strikers slammed a memo issued by RMN managers Leo Daugdaug and Gerry Lumantas, which, they said, threatened to penalize individuals and groups supporting the strike.
In support of the strikers, labor groups under national center Kilusang Mayo Uno yesterday trooped to stations and offices of the Radio Mindanao Network (RMN) in various locations in what the labor center billed as a nationally-coordinated protest action. RDEU is an affiliate of NAFLU, one of the founding federations of KMU.
Manila-based workers picketed the Makati City corporate headquarters of RMN while KMU chapters in Cagayan de Oro, Cotabato City, General Santos City, Legaspi City, and Bacolod held simultaneous solidarity actions in the network’s regional stations.
In Davao City, workers from Davao City, Compostela Valley and Davao del Norte held a protest march from Freedom Park before gathering at the RMN station in Anda-Bonifacio Sts. where a strike camp is set up.
But while the radio workers’ union has been adhering to the law, the RMN management is allegedly breaking it to defeat the strikers. RMN allegedly started illegal broadcasting. Hitgano of the radio workers’ union said the continuing broadcast is “a form of runaway shop, which is illegal.”
If the country’s laws also apply to employers, the radio workers’ union is challenging the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to act so as to prevent the media network from airing illegally. They also challenged the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the government agency mandated to resolve labor disputes, “to use its police power and stop the illegal broadcast.”
Striking for respect
RDEU has been on strike since Oct. 2 over complaints the radio management is committing gross violations of their mutually signed collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The workers said RMN has been willfully bypassing the job security provision in their collective bargaining agreement, which mandated replacing vacated positions with regular workers, dependents of union members, probationary employees, and union-recommended individuals – prioritized in that order. But since 2011, RMN reportedly began to introduce the “talent” system, hiring contractual workers called “talents” rather than probationary workers.
The union was driven to launch a strike after fruitless weeks of complying with various mechanisms offered by the Labor department to prevent the strike. The union called on RMN to respect its right to strike, rather than threaten the strikers with police blotters as RMN reportedly did since Day 1 (of the strike).
“The management even uses its rabid anti-union commentators in its smear campaign against us to dissuade favorable public sentiment for the strike,” Hitgano said. Basilio of KMU-Southern Mindanao also denounced the RMN management’s campaign to “demonize” the strikers.
In another statement, Romualdo Basilio, secretary general of Kilusang Mayo Uno Southern Mindanao, also urged RMN to honor what is in the CBA with the workers, a document that RMN had jointly signed with the union.
“The workers’ demands are simple and reasonable: regularize contractual workers so that they can fill the vacant positions and restore the union’s membership to its original 22,” Basilio said.
Although a small union (with 22 members), RDEU’s struggle mirrors the plight of other media workers in the Philippines, and covers contractual workers even if they are not yet its members.
“Aside from being vulnerable to attacks for speaking the truth in the name of public service, they (contractual media workers) are also at risk of labor violations because they are not unionized and hence, do not enjoy rights such as tenure,” said Basilio of KMU-Southern Mindanao. Which is why, he said, RMN Davao, one of few unions in the media industry, must be protected.”