MANILA--The ABS-CBN management on Tuesday promised to look into the possibility of regularizing more employees, as congressmen scrutinized job security and benefits within the shuttered media network, a move that can have bigger implications to the rest of the broadcast industry.
Anakalusugan Rep. Michael Defensor cited cases where employees had been working in the network for 10 to 20 years, but who were still not enjoying the benefits of regularization.
"Tama naman po kayo, Mr. Chair. That's one of the things we really have to look at," ABS-CBN president and CEO Carlo Katigbak replied during the congressional hearing on the network's application for a new broadcast franchise.
But Katigbak said the management would have to look into the specific employment details in question.
"I'm not disagreeing with you, Mr. Chair. If there are employees who have rendered continuous service for a very long period of time, I think it's something that we really want to look at and determine kung tama ba talaga yung aming practice ngayon or this is something we have to change," he said.
Jon Villanueva, ABS-CBN's rank-and-file union president, cited cases in other broadcast networks where employees were not regularized despite their years of service.
Some of them prefer to keep their non-regular status because they can earn more by working with different programs without the restrictions of a regular employee, he said.
Former ABS-CBN reporter Rowena Hidalgo appeared at Tuesday's hearing to talk about the labor case she and 2 other ex-employees had won against the network.
She also appeal for regularization for "deserving" employees in case the company was granted a new franchise.
Last month, she said she agreed with ABS-CBN's offer to pay her previous 16-year tenure and have her return to work as a new employee.
"Bilang malasakit din sa company dahil alam din namin yung kanilang pinagdaraanan ngayon," she told congressmen.
ABS-CBN Corp. and 16 other companies under the ABS-CBN Group have a combined total of 11,071 employees.
Under ABS-CBN Corp. only, there are 4,340 workers classified as regular, project or program employees, and 4,035 independent contractors and suppliers, said Mark Nepomuceno, former head of ABS-CBN corporate services group.
"If we could make everybody regular this instant, we would do it. Wala pong question pero may limitasyon din ang pagpapatakbo ng isang kumpanya," said Katigbak.
For those employees who could not be regularized, he said the company was now working to provide them with the same benefits as those received by regular employees.
"All of this is really about providing the best kind of employment for the workers of ABS-CBN... we can only do it if we are allowed to operate," he said.
"We are not just asking for the renewal of the franchise, sana po di na matuloy yung CDO (cease-and-desist order) because that also impacts on our ability to keep people employed."
Last May 5, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) shut down ABS-CBN the day after its previous 25-year franchise expired, despite renewal applications long pending before a congressional committee.
The NTC issued another cease-and-desist order on Tuesday, this time to prevent ABS-CBN's digital broadcast on its TVplus boxes, and Sky's direct-to-home satellite broadcast.