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PTV workers cry foul over 'unlawful' hiring of consultants.

Byline: Kristine Angeli Sabillo

MANILA -- These days, there is nothing but low morale among state television employees.

While they broadcast and report on the government's activities, employees of the People's Television (PTV) Network worry about their families and the possibility of retiring without savings. For the past three weeks, the employees have been holding protests during their lunch break.

The employees claim that they have yet to benefit from the government's reforms - their salary levels remaining stagnant for the last eight years and their retirement benefits in peril.

The People's Television Employees Association (PTEA) said the current management was not only unable to solve the problems left by past administrations, it had also committed wrongdoing.

Favored consultants?

"Lumobo ang COS sa kanilang term kahit wala pang kita ang PTV. Nag-hire o nag-accommodate sila from PCOO (Presidential Communications Operations Office) personnel noong panahon (coverage) ng impeachment ni Corona," she said in a text message.

(The number of COS ballooned during their term even if PTV was not earning. They hired or accommodated people from the PCOO during the coverage of Corona's impeachment.)

Data from the group showed that PTV now has 279 regular employees and 278 COS employees and talents.

Arguelles said the employees were further demoralized when PCOO Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said allegedly in a radio interview that they have been hiring additional personnel to bolster operations because none of the regular employees were reliable and could be trusted to do such work.

But she said the assigning of consultants or contractual employees to head departments of the network was in violation of Civil Service Commission rules, particularly Section 15 of Memorandum Circular no. 40 series 1998, which states that "No consultant, contractual or non-career employee shall be designated to position exercising control or supervision over regular and career personnel."

"Despite the PTEA's constant reminder and verbal warnings by the CSC that divisions should not be run by contractual employees as per CSC rules, this practice of Management still persists with most of the overseeing officers projecting that they are under the PCOO," PTEA said in its statement.

Asked for his comment, Coloma insisted that the PTV management has not violated the law.

"PTV has contracted the services of professionals in technical areas essential to network operations and this is being done in compliance with government rules and regulations," Coloma told INQUIRER.net.

On the other hand, PTEA claimed that while regular employees have yet to experience a salary increase for the last eight years, the contractual employees received two pay hikes in 2013 alone.

"Management has given two pay hikes in 2013 to employees with contracts of services (COS) and continues to grant increases to favored COS employees either across the board or upon renewal of individual contracts," PTEA said in a statement. "This goes to show that Management can indeed make a way if they desire to do so."

The group claimed that the "payment of salaries of political accommodations is done at the expense of the benefits of the regular employees."

"The number of COS's has bloated and doubled the number of regular employees. This despite Management's claim that the Network is experiencing financial difficulties so it could not pay overtime and night differential benefits on time," PTEA added.

Cash-strapped

PTV, a government-owned and controlled corporation (GOCC), is the flagship television network of the Philippine government.

It was first launched as the Government's Television in 1974 before being renamed Maharlika Broadcasting System six years later. It was re-branded as the People's Television after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986. And in 1992, it was turned into a government corporation.

PTEA Secretary Jasmine Barrios said PTV first experienced financial problems during the administration of former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada. She said the initial government subsidy had already been depleted by then.

Barrios added that while the new PTV Charter (Republic Act 10390) will infuse the company with P5 billion in funds over the next few years, it cannot be used for personnel expenses.

She added that the network has been unable to compete with commercial channels, because of its nature as a government station, and earn enough from advertisements and other revenue streams.

In an earlier statement, Coloma said that the current administration is already addressing the concerns of PTV employees when it comes to benefits. He said such problems arose due to "huge financial losses and deficits incurred under the previous management."

Barrios said that while this was true, they believe that the present management under Syliangco was also mismanaging PTV by dipping its hands in the remittance of Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) premiums.

But Coloma said it was already addressing such problems, including the non-remittance of PhilHealth premiums.

"Sinikap namin na mapondohan kaagad ito dahil hindi naman pwedeng mapahintulutang mapariwara ang kapakanan ng mga empleyado," he said.

(We strive to fund those expenses because we cannot let our employees suffer.)

For now, however, Arguelles said they would continue to protest until they see concrete action from the management.

She said their protests have so far paved the way for a general assembly last week, a first under the Aquino administration.

Other issues faced by PTV employees are the alleged withholding of a financial benefit for retirees and Collective Negotiations Agreement incentives and the lack of salary increase for the last eight years.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Jul 9, 2014
Words:893
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