The Philippines’ largest television network, ABS-CBN, remains off-air after the Supreme Court refused to grant on Tuesday the temporary restraining order (TRO) requested by the network for immediate resumption of its broadcast operations, ordering instead the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), as well as the House of Representatives and the Senate, to comment in 10 days on the network’s petition.
In an interview, the ABS-CBN Supervisory Employees Union and ABS-CBN Rank and File Union, whose members are among the company’s 11,000 workers affected by the network’s closure, admitted that their main worry these days is keeping their jobs steady given the threat of being laid off if the network fails to resume its operations as soon as possible.
Despite the millions of losses the company incurs per day since its historic shutdown on May 5 which could eventually result in layoffs, ABS-CBN union leaders remain positive and strong for their co-workers and families.
“We still try to laugh. We try to show our families that we are strong,” said Raul B. Asis, president of the ABS-CBN Supervisory Employees’ Union.
“But inside, this is a very painful time for us. I think it’s the same for all my fellow workers,” he added.
Asis, who has been with the company for 26 years, believes that layoffs would not be a good strategy as it will only render many employees, whose source of income depends on their current work, jobless; and stressed that it would be deadlier for union members who are relying on financial support from the company for serious ailments.
Furthermore, Asis hoped that lawmakers in charge of ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal will set aside political agendas and see livelihoods at stake, instead.
“Our understanding is the government provides jobs—not take these away,” he said.
“They say in news there are 11,000 jobs being threatened. That’s not just 11,000 people. I have five children and they’re all still studying,” Asis added.
Generoso A. Villanueva Jr., president of the ABS-CBN Rank and File Union, revealed that members are anxious about their jobs.
“Some of our members are over 40 years old. It’s hard to find a new job at that age,” Villanueva said.
“The broadcast industry is also saturated now. We are hearing of other broadcast companies cutting their workforce,” he added.
While the network remains shuttered, both union leaders said all options just to retain all its employees are on the table when negotiating with ABS-CBN’s management.
“Our position is ABS-CBN doesn’t remove any worker,” said Asis and added that union members were also geared to help the company especially at this difficult time.
Among the options they’re looking into is the reductions of pay and benefits which could be a great help to lessen the company’s finances.
“We’re open to not filing for overtime and salary reductions,” said Asis.
“We just want to keep working,” he said.
Moreover, Villanueva, who has been with ABS-CBN for 23 years, said union members are also prepared to give up any pay increase this year and instead, use up their paid leaves.
With an optimistic mindset, he said: “I believe our viewers and even the government understand the role ABS-CBN plays for ordinary Filipinos and even the economy.”
At a Senate hearing on Tuesday, May 19, Carlo Katigbak, the company president and CEO stated that the management was committed to retain all its employees and provide full salaries and benefits for at least three months. However, if the network fails to air soon, they might start a “retrenchment process” which means letting go of employees by August due to financial constraints.
“We continue to lose a substantial amount of money every month and I’m afraid if we cannot go back on air soon, by August, we may already have to consider beginning a retrenchment process,” Katigbak told the senators.
“We felt it would be very, very painful to put our employees out on the street without them having an idea as to how they can continue earning a living and continue to feed their families.
“At this point, the most important priority for ABS-CBN is to return on air as quickly as possible. We need to do this so that we can again start earning revenues so that we can continue paying salaries of our employees,” he added.