Digitel workers protest PLDT ‘retirement’ plan

‘Redundancy’ cited as reason for job cuts

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@paolomontecillo

11:10 PM April 16th, 2013

By: Paolo G. Montecillo, April 16th, 2013 11:10 PM

Emplyees of Digitel Telecommunications Philippines Inc. have asked to be absorbed into the company’s new parent, Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) following the merger between the two telcos.

The Digitel Employees Union (DEU) is currently protesting PLDT’s voluntary retirement program, which the union said was a mere ploy by management to avoid negotiating with its workers as an organized group.

“PLDT should absorb Digitel employees and start CBA (collective bargaining agreement) negotiations,” the DEU said in a statement.

PLDT earlier cited “redundancy” as its main reason for the removal of Digitel workers, who were offered generous retirement programs well above what the government requires.

“But it’s not true that the jobs we used to have are gone now because they just want to replace us with contractual employees,” DEU said.

Union representatives have been staging protests in front of PLDT’s Makati Avenue headquarters since April 10 to oppose PLDT’s decision to remove around 500 Digitel employees.

Digitel workers covered by PLDT’s voluntary retirement program may receive severance packages equivalent to 190 to 250 percent of their monthly salaries for every year of service.

According to DEU, PLDT allegedly threatened Digitel workers, saying that if they would not accept the offer, they would be removed from their posts and given lower retirement packages.

In a decision issued last Jan. 21, the Supreme Court said PLDT should recognize and negotiate with the labor union—an order that the telco defied, DEU said.

For its part, PLDT said most of the employees affected by the job cuts have accepted the early retirement offers.

PLDT said 427 workers, or about 80 percent of affected employees, accepted the enhanced redundancy package offered by the company.

Digitel spokesperson Reuben Pangan said the package was about twice the amount required by law and included a 2-year medical coverage plan.

“To cushion the impact of the redundancy program, we found alternative employment for about two-thirds of the affected employees, either in PLDT, Sun Cellular, or with our contractors,” Pangan said. “Those who could not be found alternative jobs were given various forms of assistance in the course of this transition on top of the redundancy package. For instance, entrepreneurship, livelihood and other workshops were held for the employees.”

Pangan explained that the redundancy program had to be conducted because 140,000 Digitel landline subscribers in Luzon would have to be integrated into PLDT.

He said Digitel was compelled to migrate its subscribers to its parent firm PLDT because its landline facilities are at the end-of-life stage.

It will be progressively difficult to operate the facilities because the spare parts for the outdated equipment are becoming more scarce, Pangan added.

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