ABS-CBN 'fully compliant' with labor standards: DOLE exec

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 29 2020 09:08 PM | Updated as of Jun 30 2020 02:57 AM

Two former workers testify vs ABS-CBN on labor issues

MANILA (3rd UPDATE) -- ABS-CBN Corp. complied with Philippine labor standards following a routine inspection by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), an official told congressmen hearing the shuttered broadcast network's application for a new operating franchise on Monday.

"After finding of being fully compliant with the directive of the department," Labor Undersecretary Ana Dione said the network was dropped as respondent "in the matter of inspection conducted in its premises."

The inspection took place from July to September 2018 to audit ABS-CBN's adherence to general labor standards, occupational and health standards, and security of tenure, said Mark Nepomuceno, former head of ABS-CBN corporate services group.

"ABS-CBN is fully compliant with labor laws," he said, citing the DOLE's final order of inspection dated January 28 this year. 

"Hindi sya nakitaan ng anumang violations."

(No violation was found.)

Since 1989, a total of 109 cases of alleged illegal dismissal were filed against the network, with 1 case pending, said Dione.

Sixty percent of the cases were decided in favor of the employees while company management won the rest, she said, noting that 22 percent of the complaints were resolved through settlement.

ABS-CBN executives on Monday defended the company's labor compliance record as a former employee appeared at the congressional hearing to detail his supposedly illegal firing.

Nepomuceno described the company as a "good employer," citing several awards.

Rejecting the network's application for a new broadcast franchise, he said, would jeopardize the livelihood of thousands of employees under ABS-CBN Corp. and 16 other companies under the ABS-CBN Group.

ABS-CBN Corp. and its subsidiaries have a total of 11,071 employees, including those classified as independent contractors, he said.

Last year, the ABS-CBN Group paid more than 20,000 workers and suppliers, he said.

"Hindi lamang ang ABS-CBN Corp., kundi marami sa kasaping kumpanya ng grupo ay maapektuhan ng pagkawala ng franchise," he told the House Committee on Legislative Franchises.

(Many of the other companies under the ABS-CBN Group, not just ABS-CBN Corp., will be affected if a new franchise is not granted.)

FORMER EMPLOYEES ALLEGE LABOR LAW VIOLATIONS

Two former employees of ABS-CBN also faced Congress on Monday and said the company illegally dismissed workers from 2009 to 2010 for trying to form a union of talents or non-regular employees. 

Journalie Payonan, a former cameraman of ABS-CBN, said that in 2009, he and more than 100 filed illegal dismissal charges against the company which are already pending at the Supreme Court. 

Payanon said he and other talents decided to form a union in 2009 as they were not getting the same benefits as regular rank-and-file employees.

“However, the formation of the talent employees union did not sit well with ABS-CBN,” Payanon told lawmakers. 

He said he was dismissed with more than 100 other non-regular employees.

Christopher Mendoza, a former audioman of the network, said he and other members of their group were also summoned to a meeting with ABS-CBN officials where they were asked to drop their plans.

“Pag hindi namin winaive yung kaso na finile, namin wala na kaming trabaho kinabukasan,” Mendoza said.

(If we didn’t waive the case we filed, we would no longer have jobs the next day.)

Mendoza said he was also dismissed, but no longer bears any ill will towards the network. 

“Inuulit ko po, ‘No to shut down’ kami ng grupo ko. Pero kailangan po namin, hinihiling po namin ay hustisya sa pagkakatanggal sa amin noong 2010,” Mendoza said. 

(I repeat, our group’s position is ‘No to shutdown.’ But we are asking for justice for our dismissal in 2010.)

An official from the National Labor Relations Commission, which is under the DOLE, said meanwhile that the broadcast network has since complied with courts' decisions on backwages and reinstatements, which are granted to former workers who were supposedly dismissed unjustly from their positions.

"Based po sa initial data namin, nag-cocomply naman po sila," sa Purdey Perez of the Research, Information & Publication Division of NLRC.

He added that all grants of reinstatement were followed by ABS-CBN, aside from Payonan's cases at the Supreme Court.

Payonan also asked that lawmakers look into the issue of non-regular employees in other media companies.

“In this hearing of the House (of) Representatives, we would like to manifest our concerns not only with the ABS-CBN but in all other networks to look into the practice of creating another type of employment status that is talent or program employees instead of regular status of employment which we see no basis in the labor code of the Philippines,” Payonan said. 

Meanwhile, the head of the broadcast network's workers union said that the shutdown of ABS-CBN is taking its toll on its employees as the possibility of retrenching workers inches closer to realization amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Jon Villanueva, president of the ABS-CBN Rank and File Employees' Union, said that as ABS-CBN continues to stay off-air, its workers are getting increasingly worried as they stand to lose their jobs. 

"Mababa po ngayon ang morale ng mga manggagawa. Madami po nagpapadala ng mensahe sa'kin na maski hindi po miyembro, ang talaga pong...tuliro po sila, hindi makatulog. Lalo na po't palapit nang palapit po 'yung planning na pwede magkaroon ng retrenchment sa ABS-CBN," Villanueva said.

(The workers have low morale now. I have received a lot of messages, even from non-members, that they are anxious and can't sleep. Especially the possibility of retrenchment in ABS-CBN is looming.)

"Nangangamba po sila (They are worried)." 

Last May, ABS-CBN President and CEO Carlo Katigbak told senators in a hearing that they are "considering" to retrench workers by August if they fail to resume broadcast soon. 

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