Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday, February 24, asked ABS-CBN to put the welfare of its employees as top priority by regularizing their contractual workers.
“We need a pro-worker franchise,” Hontiveros said during the Senate committee on public services hearing that discussed the issues surrounding the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN.
The Senator compelled the Lopez-led firm to improve its labor practices, settle contractualization issues, and provide job security to its workers, once the franchise is renewed.
“Dapat genuine ang pagkalinga sa mga 11,000 manggagawa at hindi lang dahil may banta ng pagsasara,” Hontiveros told the network’s top officials.
“Kung tunay ang pagiging ‘kapamilya,’ dapat regular at may benepisyo ang mga empleyado ninyo,” she added.
According to Hontiveros, ABS-CBN has at least 7,000 regular employees and 300 of which are members of the union.
She said the rest of about 6,700 regular workers enjoy wages that are 50 percent higher than union members.
The Senator noted that workers’ welfare must include regularizing non-regular workers and talents and granting all the employees with guaranteed workers’ and trade union rights.
Meanwhile, Mark Nepomuceno, former head of ABS-CBN Corporate Services Group, said ABS-CBN is “fully compliant” with labor laws.
Nepomuceno noted that the company has received “clearance” from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) “a few weeks ago” affirming “its compliance with general labor standards, occupational safety and health, and security of tenure.”
He said ABS-CBN is not practicing “endo” or hiring workers under short-term contractual arrangements to save on benefit payments.
Nepomuceno also told the senators that the network’s employees even get “above the mandated benefits of the government.”
For program employees, he said ABS-CBN contributed to their mandatory employee benefits, such as Social Security System (SSS), Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth), and Pag-IBIG Fund payments.
In the case of independent contractors, such as artists, writers, and directors, Nepomuceno noted that it depends on the contract negotiation.
But he gave assurances that the “bulk” of the contractors were provided with the mandatory benefits, “among other benefits.”
As she ended her interpellation, Hontiveros still asserted that ABS-CBN must improve its labor practices and provide job security to its employees once the franchise is renewed.
“Moving forward, kapag mapagbigyan ang prankisa ng ABS-CBN, dapat kasama ang sapat ng benepisyo sa ilalim ng ating labor laws na may respeto sa mga unyon at sa collective bargaining agreement,” she noted.
“This is the promise of fairness that I expect from ABS-CBN,” she concluded.
In the hearing, some employees of ABS-CBN expressed their concern over the possibility that it would be hard for them to find employment once ABS-CBN’s franchise is not renewed.
Jon Villanueva, head of the ABS-CBN rank and file employees’ union, said the thought of losing their jobs is already a “torture.”
He noted that the employees would likely have a hard time finding similar jobs, as slots in other broadcast stations are likely filled.
The franchise of ABS-CBN remains in limbo as it is set to expire on May 4.
At least 12 bills pushing for the franchise renewal of the network has been pending in Congress.