DOLE orders PLDT to regularize workers 'without conditions'

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) maintained that telecommunications giant PLDT Incorporated should regularize its service providers' employees.

Contrary to PLDT's position that DOLE's order for contractors to cease and desist would displace workers, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said PLDT should absorb the workers, as stipulated under labor laws.

"[T]his office clarifies that pursuant to existing laws, the regularization of workers as a result of the finding of labor-only contracting takes effect by operation of law, and is not subject to any condition," Bello said in the clarificatory order he signed on Wednesday, July 11.

"Any act or condition imposed that frustrates or tends to frustrate the order to regularize is contumacious and shall be dealt [with] in accordance to law," he added.

Rappler has reached out to PLDT for comment on the order, but the telco has yet to issue a statement as of posting. 

DOLE found that 38 of PLDT's service contractors are engaging in labor-only contracting schemes. This means that the services provided by the workers are key functions of the company.

DOLE had ordered PLDT to regularize more than 7,300 workers from 38 contractors back in January. PLDT filed a motion for reconsideration, but this was denied by DOLE in April.

'Don't stall regularization'

Dan Joshua Nazario, president of the PLDT Organization of Workers and Employees for Rights (POWER), told Rappler that the telco asked the affected workers to reapply for jobs.

"We were asked to apply for jobs with PLDT again. This should not be the case because we should be considered regular employees already under PLDT, following DOLE's order," Nazario said in Filipino.

He added that they are currently under "floating status" for 180 days, which means they are not paid while waiting to get back to work again. (READ: #SavePLDTContractuals: Ex-PLDT workers share stories of being jobless)

In an interview with Bello, he said PLDT should place the workers in regular positions automatically, without them having to reapply.

"All the contractors' employees we declared as regular employees were asked to apply again. That's not needed because they are already deemed as employees [under PLDT]. That's [the company's] ploy to lengthen the process," Bello told Rappler in a mix of English and Filipino.

The labor chief added that PLDT needs to comply with the order, as it is "final and executory."

PLDT has filed an appeal at the Court of Appeals (CA), but Bello said the order still stands unless the CA issues a temporary restraining order (TRO).

"They have not issued a TRO so we can continue implementing the order," Bello said.

Improving the process

Senator Joel Villanueva, chairman of the Senate committee on labor, employment, and human resources development, also urged PLDT to start the regularization process.

"To continue the legal maneuverings and conditionalities would only create a negative corporate image of PLDT being a violator of labor laws," Villanueva said in a statement on Wednesday.

To the government, Villanueva appealed for "a quick and efficient conciliation protocol to ensure correction and compliance with labor inspection findings."

"It is high time that the DOLE implement an effective mechanism to ensure compliance without making the process burdensome among concerned parties," the senator said.

Aside from placing employees in permanent positions, PLDT was also ordered to give around 2,000 workers monetary benefits totaling P51.6 million.

Last June, DOLE tagged PLDT as among the top companies with illegal contracting practices, with over 8,000 affected workers.

In 2017, DOLE also ordered PLDT and its contractors to regularize close to 10,000 employees and settle P66 million in unpaid benefits. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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