By Lara Climaco i FilAm Star Correspondent

PLDT is now engaged against the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) and its own supervisors in the prolonged dispute over the regularization of thousands of contractuals at the telco giant.

Last week, PLDT denied it was seeking a compromise agreement as previously announced by DoLE Sec. Silvestre Bello III in media interviews.

“No such meeting between Sec. Bello and PLDT officials has taken place,” PLDT said in a press statement on September 3.

“PLDT has not sought a compromise agreement and is pursuing a fair and just resolution of this case on the basis of the 31 July 2018 decision of the Court of Appeals which substantially altered the pertinent orders of the DoLE,” it added.

Last September 4, the union of supervisors at PLDT called Gabay ng Unyon sa Telekomunikasyon ng mga Superbisor (GUTS) filed a notice of strike at the National Conciliation and Mediation Board of the DoLE, citing unfair labor practices and the “illegal massive dismissal of 12,000 PLDT workers and employees.”

“GUTS claimed that after the termination of contractual workers two months ago, supervisors have been suffering the effects on their health conditions as additional workload force were being passed to them by the telecom giant,” Defend Job Philippines, an advocate for workers’ rights and welfare, reported on its Facebook page.

Reacting to this development, PLDT said it was not aware of any industrial or labor dispute with GUTS, which was a requirement for the filing of a notice of strike. It warned that the issue of contractualization in the company was sub-judice with ongoing court proceedings and denied once again that it had terminated 12,000 workers after Bello rendered final and executory the DoLE order to regularize more than 7,000 workers deployed by service agencies to PLDT.

“Any claims of alleged terminations by PLDT of ’12,000’ workers is absolutely baseless, untrue and malicious. PLDT has not undertaken any such mass termination. At the end of June 2018, PLDT contractors affected by Sec. Bello’s regularization orders complied with the Secretary’s cease-and-desist orders against them and ceased deploying workers to PLDT. Following the Court of Appeals Decision enjoining the Secretary’s orders, however, the contractors have since undertaken remediation efforts to normalize their deployments and services,” PLDT explained in a September 4 press statement.

The telco giant has also revealed that it had asked the Court of Appeals to reconsider the decision to remand the regularization orders involving installation, repair and maintenance (IRM) services to the Office of the Regional director of the DoLE-National Capital Region.

The fact-finding process sought by the court was beyond the jurisdiction of the DoLE secretary and was instead a function of the National Labor Relations Commission, it reasoned.

“PLDT also questioned that part of the CA ruling which seems to conclude that all IRM jobs are ‘regular’. It argued that the law recognizes that some work of this nature can be project-based or seasonal in nature,” according to the telco giant.

Out of the many job functions that DoLE directed PLDT to absorb contractuals, only IRM services were retained by the Court of Appeals as eligible for regularization.

“Assuming the CA will affirm the remand, PLDT argued that instead of the DoLE it should be the National Labor Relations Commission – a tribunal with more comprehensive fact-finding powers – that should take over to determine whether the jobs are in fact IRM, and if so, whether they are ‘regular’ or can be considered ‘project based’ or ‘seasonal,’” PLDT explained in last week’s press statement.

During last month’s financial results reporting, PLDT President and CEO Manuel Pangilinan referred to the labor dispute as “headwinds” that nevertheless would not derail the telco giant’s recovery. During the first half of this year, PLDT said its consolidated service revenues net of interconnection costs rose four percent to PHP 74.2 billion, with second quarter (Q2) revenues hitting a peak of PHP 37.5 billion since Q2 2016, when service revenues started to decline. The downward spiral lasted for five consecutive quarters well into 2017. The revenue increase during Q2 of this year “marks the fifth consecutive quarter of steady sequential improvements in service revenues,” PLDT noted in its financial results.

Pangilinan expects PLDT’s group core income for 2018 to be in the vicinity of PHP 23 to 24 billion, with capital expenditures reaching PHP 58 billion as budgeted for the year.