PLDT, DOLE butt heads in alleged worker layoff

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Highlights

  • PLDT: Customer service hold-up caused by DOLE cease and desist order to agencies
  • DOLE: PLDT should have absorbed the workers already
  • Workers attribute layoff, halt in services to PLDT
  • PLDT denies terminating over 7,000 workers
  • PLDT Customer Care account posted about illegal contracting

This story was updated to include a statement from PLDT.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 2) — Telecommunications giant PLDT Inc. said Monday it had nothing to do with thousands of workers losing their jobs – but the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) begs to disagree.

In a statement, PLDT denied terminating over 7,000 contracts resulting in the layoffs. It pointed to the Labor Department for the hold-up in operations amid complaints of crippled customer services.

"PLDT has been accused of terminating the service contracts and displacing the affected workers. I am just saying we did not do that," PLDT Spokesman Ramon Isberto wrote in an e-mail to CNN Philippines.

PLDT explained that DOLE ordered its contract providers to stop servicing the company, which affected its online operations.   

"DOLE has ordered 38 service contract providers of PLDT, including our call center and business process service providers, to cease and desist from providing services to PLDT," the company said.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said that the DOLE issued the cease and desist order because the agencies handling the workers were "not qualified as legitimate service providers."

He maintained that PLDT was supposed to hire them as ordered by DOLE in January because their work was indispensable to telco operations. 

"They should be regularized as employees of the principal, referring to PLDT – not the service provider," Bello stressed.

PLDT was on the list of companies DOLE found to be engaging in illegal contracting services last May. In June, the company said it was processing its employees for regularization.

The supposed layoff of more than 7,000 workers was the subject of a protest led by the PLDT Organization of Workers and Employees for Rights (POWER) and Defend Job Philippines on Monday morning.

PLDT argued that it had filed a petition before the Court of Appeals (CA) asking for a review of the DOLE order. It said 23 affected service contractors also questioned the order.

However, Bello said that the window for filing a petition had already expired so the order was final and executory.

"There is a limit to legal processes. Eventually… justice will catch up with them," he noted. "They can only delay probably, but they cannot escape the responsibility of recognizing the constitutional right of the employees to security of tenure."

PLDT maintained that it submitted its petition for certiorari to the CA on May 2, after they received the DOLE order on April 30. It said this was well within the 60-day window, and the Office of the Solicitor General even filed a comment on behalf of the DOLE.

DOLE is expected to meet PLDT and workers' groups within the week to clarify the legal implication of its order.

Customer service account complains

PLDT clients first noticed the absence of PLDT customer service responders over the weekend, and took to Twitter to complain.

 

 

 

But even the company's customer service account on Twitter, @PLDT_Cares, had a grievance of its own. The account was inactive on Sunday – but it retweeted a tweet condemning PLDT CEO Manny V. Pangilinan.

"Anong @PLDT_Cares?" the retweeted post by Twitter user @maykamaykaba said. "Wala nga kayong care para sa workers!"

[Translation: What do you mean @PLDT_Cares? You don't even care about the workers!]

 

The tweet was up for at least a few hours before being taken down by around noon on Monday. Although @PLDT_Cares has since resumed responding to customer concerns, its last reply before the retweet was on June 30, Saturday.

The hashtag #SavePLDTcontractuals also trended on Monday morning.

PLDT assured its clientele that it was working to respond to customer concerns both in the interim and long term -- but it did not specify what these measures were.

 

Workers protest

While PLDT pointed to DOLE and service providers for the termination, an organization of workers from the company attributed the halt in operations to the telco giant.

POWER President Dan Joshua Nazario said in a statement that their organization was "deeply enraged" over the losses in jobs.

"The stopping of the operations of PLDT in our respective agencies is clear proof that the telecom firm is avoiding the DOLE's ruling to regularize them with PLDT as our principal employer," said Nazario.

He said he was confident President Rodrigo Duterte and the Labor Department would hear them out.

"Our regularization call will ring loudly nationwide that the PLDT management must call us regulars," Nazario added.

In a media advisory on Sunday, the expected attendees of the protest included call center agents, customer representatives, and technical and chat support workers from firms under PLDT, including SPI CRM Global, Iplus, Curo, and Proserve.

CNN Philippines' Senior Researcher Ella Hermonio, correspondent Gerg Cahiles, and intern Samantha Corrales contributed to this report.