“Organizing into a union is one of the rights of employees including those in the media and entertainment.” – Michael Rogas, union president of RMN
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Michael Rogas, 31, had worked for nearly nine years as anchor, reporter and writer of RMN Manila before he was suddenly fired last December. RMN is a radio network that is reputed to be the largest in the Philippines, with almost 60 company-owned AM & FM radio stations nationwide.
In having fired Rogas, the management led by the Canoy brothers cited as reason his interview two years ago with the hostage taker at the Luneta hostage fiasco. Rogas calls it illegal dismissal. He had interviewed the hostage-taker at the expressed command of the management itself. Why was the management firing him for this nearly two years later? he asked.
Rogas told Bulatlat.com that the management of RMN Manila did not fire him because they suddenly remembered what he did during the widely-covered hostage crisis, when the police and authorities had also been criticized for having allowed the media at the scene of an ongoing crime. The reason why he was fired, said Rogas, can be traced to the fact that the employees of RMN’s Manila had successfully formed a union and got it registered with the labor department. For the first time in Canoy’s RMN, its Manila office has a union. RMN is about to mark its 60th anniversary this August.
The National Federation of Labor Unions claimed that it is no ordinary dismissal, indeed. After Rogas, president of the employees’ union, two more union leaders were fired: Lawrence Tanjoco, union vice-president, and Shane Juan, chairman of the union’s board of directors. The management has also placed on floating status two others: Golden Dove awardee and RMN Manila chief reporter Lourdes Escaros-Paet and admin officer Emily Galdo who are both union members. Galdo was reportedly fired this week.
After the dismissals, the management is reportedly questioning the existence itself of the new union, and the legality of those leading it as they are supposedly no longer connected with RMN.
Union formed to check exploitative practices at RMN
From just filing a case of illegal dismissal against the RMN management, Rogas and the rest of the 42 remaining employees in RMN’s Metro Manila operations have elevated the charge they filed against the management into a case of union busting and unfair labor practices, which could serve as basis for a strike. Even as they are now preparing to launch a strike, they noted that management has been attacking the union by firing or harassing its leaders and members, and by sowing discord among the union members, Rogas complained to the National Conciliation and Mediation Board this week.
RMN’s Manila operation has reportedly undergone a lot of changes for the worse for its employees especially since 2009. From a discussion with the illegally dismissed union leaders, it appears that they had been driven to form a union late last year so they could defend themselves against the increasingly exploitative and dehumanizing working condition in RMN.
Since 2009 up to now, some 40 employees of RMN in Manila had been forced to resign, having been compelled at first to work also on other jobs that were not listed in their designation, the union officers said. Under the leadership of Rey Bayoging, assistant Vice-President for AM operations, the then more than 80 media workforce in RMN Manila were “constructively dismissed,” as employees reportedly left feeling humiliated or constricted with the additional job impositions.
Only 42 employees remain after the resignations. According to the union officers, they are made to absorb the jobs and responsibilities of those who had left, without additional pay, overtime pay, hazard pay, or even transportation allowance or support. Their workhours and job loads increased.
Despite their termination from work for advancing the status of their union into one that could muster votes for the right to bargain for the RMN Manila workforce, Rogas still advices other workers and employees to form a union.
“Organizing into a union is one of the rights of employees including those in the media and entertainment,” Rogas said. Unions, he added, are not formed to quarrel with the management but to defend the employees’ rights.
Lourdes Escaros, one of the union members in floating status, urges RMN to be true to its claim to listeners that it is “Laging Maaasahan” (Always Dependable).
Shane Juan, union board chairman and one of the dismissed, said he used to cover protest rallies, but now it is his turn to join protests. He believes that if media is a watchdog, who would watch the media in turn, but its union. Like Rogas, he also encourages other employees including those in the media to organize into unions. Like Escaros-Paet, he also urges the RMN management to “be true to your branding” and to start “respecting its employees. RMN’s slogan from 2011 up to now is “Laging handang tumulong sa iyo” (Always ready to help you)
In a statement, the Burgos Media Center and the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines have conveyed support for the struggling union of RMN employees in Manila. The Burgos Media Center also criticized RMN management’s termination of the labor leaders as a “form of repression and violation of the employees’ right to organization.” The group urges RMN president Eric Canoy to heed the demands of his regular employees nationwide for better working conditions.
RMN covers about 60 AM and FM radio stations all over the country. Founded by Henry Canoy in the 50s, it has greatly expanded under the Marcos dictatorship, courtesy of a loan with the Development Bank of the Philippines. It is still expanding up to now, reportedly buying up more stations in other parts of the country.