Digitel employees stage hunger strike

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Sunday, April 21, 2013


SEVERAL employees of telecommunication company Digital Telecommunications Philippines Inc. (Digitel) have been on hunger strike at the main office of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) for almost a week now.

They have been protesting against “continued defiance” of the telecom giant PLDT to the Supreme Court (SC) order for the reinstatement of dismissed Digitel workers and start with the collective bargaining agreement.

PLDT's Manuel V. Pangilinan bought Digitel last year with a promise that the merger "would not cause lay-offs."

The SC, in its October 10, 2012 decision with finality, ordered Digitel to implement the order of the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) directing the firm to commence collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiations and declared the dismissal of 13 Digitel employees as illegal.

By the time the SC’s final decision came out, PLDT already owns Digitel.

In a telephone interview, Digitel Employees Union (DEU) president Allan Licardo said they have been conducting their protest action right in front of the PLDT main office in Makati, Metro Manila for more than 10 days now, and that they decided to hold a hunger strike to pressure the PLDT officials to implement the SC order.

DEU said PLDT "bought" Digitel via shareholding swap then closed it, integrated its operation into PLDT's, got rid of the regular employees who are union members to replace them with contractual workers.

"Hunger strike is our last recourse if Dole and Court will not push the decision to fruition, especially with telecom giant Digitel/PLDT bent on choking the union to its death and mangling the law to unrecognizability. Our experience reveals that we have nowhere to go under the system, as concerned authorities merely wait and see until their decisions favorable to workers such as the SC decision last January 21,2013 are reduced to mere scraps of paper," Licardo said.

Fritz Alzuelo, DEU vice president, said there are about 87 remaining members of their union that opted to fight it out with the telecom giant to enforce their worker's right for a CBA.

It was learned that more than 300 of the DEU members opted to accept PLDT's offer of early retirement plan for the Digitel employees.

In the plan, Digitel regular employees are made to retire early with a "generous pay" but then offered to work back to the company, this time as contractuals. DEU members termed this offer by PLDT as "redundancy scheme."

"Gusto namin ay trabaho at patuloy na makapagtrabaho, lalo't hindi naman nawawala ang ipapatrabaho sa amin, pinapalitan nga kaming regular ng kontraktwal o mga dati naming kasamahan na nagsipag-avail na ng voluntary retirement program/early retirement program," Licardo said.

"This is a just and moral fight that we are willing to go the distance for," he added. (BOT)

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on April 22, 2013.

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