Ex-Plantersbank workers seek better terms from China Bank Savings

MANILA, Philippines – Former employees of a bank merging with China Bank Savings Incorporated (CBSI) have made an appeal to the latter: Maintain the compensation package and salary level they enjoyed at the Planters Development Bank (Plantersbank).

On Thursday night, January 28, Plantersbank Employees Association (PDBEA) members staged a rally in Makati City to protest the alleged lower compensation and benefits package offered by CBSI to former Plantersbank employees, following their absorption into the bank under the merger.

Together with some members of the Banking and Financial Unions Against BSP Circular 268, the PDBEA also condemned the termination of 11 former Plantersbank employees, mostly janitors and messengers.

“We are calling on the management of the merged China Bank Savings to reinstate terminated employees, respect our last compensation package and salary levels with Plantersbank," PDBEA president Mark Oliver Gonzalez told Rappler in a phone interview.

Gonzalez said the group is also urging CBSI to "continue the collective bargaining negotiation and conclude a CBA (collective bargaining agreement), and lastly, respect and recognize our union."

He explained that former Plantersbank employees only want to get the benefits that they had long enjoyed before the merger with CBSI.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas approved the merger between Plantersbank and CBSI in mid-2015, with the latter bank as the surviving entity. The Securities and Exchange Commission approved it in December 2015.

Because of this, ex-Plantersbank employees have been absorbed by CBSI, and the PBDEA no longer has an official party to talk to with regard to their CBA negotiations.

Redundancy

“The most important thing to emphasize in the whole picture is that all employees of CBS and former PDB employees absorbed into CBSI will be properly represented by an employees union," CBS senior vice president and corporate information officer Alexander Escucha explained in an email to Rappler.

Escucha added: "China Bank Savings Inc happens to already have its own bargaining unit with an existing CBA. Therefore, the Bank can only recognize the CBSI Union and its current and active CBA." 

The PDBEA previously filed a notice of strike before the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) on January 6, citing the alleged “bad faith negotiation, surface bargaining, union busting, illegal termination, and unfair labor practice” of CBSI.

Escucha confirmed that 11 Plantersbank janitors and messengers were not  absorbed by CBSI, "for reasons of redundancy from the Bank because their positions no longer exist in the merged bank."

"This was sufficiently explained to each one of them and they were given full benefits. These were janitorial and messenger positions, which are not core functions of a bank,” he said.

According to Escucha, 6 out of the 11 workers have been given their severance pay. Their notice of separation was served on December 29, 2015, and will take effect on January 30, 2016.

“The Bank allowed them one-month time-off from work to apply with other companies, and explore other opportunities, and by way of assistance, the Bank endorsed them to its accredited service providers, i.e., the companies providing janitorial and messengering services,” he said.

Not enough

Gonzalez said this is not enough for the PDBEA.

Kaya lang po, para po sa aming mga empleyado ng Planters, totoo naman po na CBS employee na kami. Sabi nila iaabsorb nila lahat,” he said. (But we are all employees of Planters and we are all CBS employees now. They said they would absorb all of us.)

Gonzalez also slammed the retire-rehire CBS! offer, calling it a strategy to  "lower our existing salaries and benefits.”

Labor dept involved

To resolv the dispute, both parties have availed the services of the NCMB and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) through the single-entry approach system.

DOLE describes it as "a 30-day conciliation-mediation alternative dispute resolution system" prior to any filing of labor cases.

NCMB-NCR officer-in-charge Amorsolo Aglibut acts as conciliator-mediator. He told Rappler on Friday, January 29, that both parties have been participative in the past 4 conciliation-mediation meetings held this month.

The next meeting has been set for February 9. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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