Digitel employees on a hunger strike for a week now

Several employees of the telecommunication company Digital Telecommunications Philippines Inc. (Digitel)have been on a hunger strike at the main office of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT)in Makati to protest the telecom giant’s continued defiance of a Supreme Court order to reinstate displaced Digitel workers and to start the collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

It can be recalled that PLDT’s Manuel V. Pangilinan bought Digitel in 2012 with a promise that the merger “would not cause lay-offs.”

The Supreme Court, in its October 10, 2012 decision with finality, ordered Digitel to implement the order of the Department of Labor and Employment(DOLE) to commence CBA negotiations and at the same time declared the dismissal of 13 Digitel employees as illegal.

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

In a telephone interview Sunday morning, 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 ten days now and that they decided to hold a hunger strike to pressure the PLDT officials to implement the SC order.

Licardo 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 their members opted to accept PLDT’s offer of early retirement plan for the Digitel employees.

In the said 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.”

“This is a just and moral fight that we are willing to go the distance for,” he added.

The laborers said that “the closure, integration of operation of Digitel to PLDT does not only contravene labor rights guaranteed by the Constitution but it also violates the approved ‘sale’/shareholding-swap between Digitel and PLDT that was approved by the National Telecommunication Commission”.

The ongoing hunger strike have enjoyed the support of other labor unions like PALEA, MKP-PLDT Union and labor organizations such as Alliance of Progressive Labor and MAKABAYAN.

“So our resolve is to undergo hunger strike to sacrifice ourselves to bring things in order. This is a bitter pill we are willing to take not only for ourselves but for the future generation,” Licardo said.

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