Gov’t upholds removal of ‘redundant’ Digitel employees
MANILA, Philippines — Telecommunications giant Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) hopes that its dispute with workers of formerly Gokongwei-led Digital Telecommunications Philippines Inc. (Digitel) would be “put to rest” as the government upheld the company’s 2013 redundancy program.
PLDT spokesperson Ramon Isberto said a National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) resolution released this week supports the company’s decision to retrench Digitel employees following the integration of their operations.
The resolution rejected the motion for reconsideration filed by 86 members of the Digitel Employees Union (DEU) and upheld an earlier NLRC decision that said Digitel “had reached its end of life stage, and that it was financially impossible for Digitel to have upgraded and modernized its network — leading to the migration of Digital subscribers to PLDT.”
“Because the redundancy program was a consequence of these events, the NLRC concluded that the separation of the entire Digitel workforce was done in good faith,” Isberto said in a statement.
As a result, the union members “are now entitled to separation benefits from the redundancy program, as well as back wages from March 16 to July 30, 2013, and their separation can take immediate effect.”
About 80% of the affected thousand-person Digitel workforce accepted the redundancy package offered by PLDT.
PLDT acquired Gokongwei-led JG Summit Holdings’ 51.55% stake in Digitel in October 2011. It increased its stake to 98% after a tender offer made to minority shareholders.
Digitel’s 140,000 landline subscribers in northern, central, and southern Luzon had been absorbed by PLDT, resulting in operational redundancies.
The DEU insisted that PLDT had responsibilities on the tenure of the workers. The union cited Section 80 of the Corporation Code, which states: “The surviving or consolidated entity must, therefore, recognize the security of tenure and length of service of the workers of the merging or consolidating corporations.”
Last year, the Labor deparment issued a writ of execution, ordering commencement of a Collective Bargaining Agreement and reinstatement of affected employees. The writ enforced an earlier Supreme Court decision.
In their defense, Isberto said the bargaining unit the DEU represented “ceased to exist” as they did not voluntarily availed of the redundancy program.
“DEU has no right to demand collective bargaining with Digitel,” he said.
Close to 100 DEU members went on hunger strike in 2013 to oppose the retrenchment.