China Savings Bank takes over Planters Bank, starts layoffs, union busting

Plantersbank picket for job, wage
Bulatlat File Photo: Plantersbank employees picket in front of their main branch in Makati (Dec 2015 Photo by M. Salamat / Bulatlat.com)

“It is apparent that Chinabank and Planters Development Bank intend to ease out regular employees as certain bank functions in Chinabank Savings are already outsourced or being handled by contractual employees.”

By MARYA SALAMAT
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Restituto Figeroa, long-time bank employee and unionist, lives near the Philippine Arena in Bulacan where a grand hour-long fireworks display was held last New Year’s Eve. But the whole time they were exploding fireworks there, he said he was crying with his family. He was suddenly laid off from his job of more than 25 years barely two days before new year.

In Mindoro, another long-time unionist and fellow bank employee, Ronald Fabregas, was trying to replace the roof of his house after it was shattered by Typhoon Nona a week before Christmas. But he, too, was suddenly told to report to the bank, and when he got there, he received news of his layoff. He spent the new year not just roofless but also jobless.

Fabregas, Figueroa and nine more in the bank’s remaining regular messengers and janitors were served their termination papers by Planters Development Bank on December 29. Also called Planters Bank, their employer said there are no positions (or plantilla) for them in China Savings Bank, the declared surviving entity in its ongoing merger with Planters Development Bank (PDB).

In China Savings Bank, owned by mall magnate Henry Sy, both the messengerial and janitorial employees are agency workers from outsourcing companies.

It appears the layoff of the last regular messengerial and janitorial employees of Planters Development Bank is just the first in what threatens to be a series of retrenchments leading to the decimation of regular employees and unionists of Planters Development Bank.

“It is apparent that China Bank and Planters Development Bank intend to ease out regular employees as certain bank functions in Chinabank Savings are already outsourced or being handled by contractual employees,” said a House resolution directing the Committee on Labor and Employment and the Committee on Banks & Financial Intermediaries to inquire into the derailed collective bargaining negotiation between the management of Planters Bank and the employees association. It was authored by partylist representatives from the Makabayan coalition.

Planters Bank employees previously interviewed by Bulatlat.com said that because of their almost four decades of union struggle for wages and benefits, their wages and benefits are better compared to that in China Savings Bank. The unionists hoped their fellow bank employees in China Savings Bank would unite with them in upholding better wages and benefits. But management action shows it wanted to treat the PDB employees’ union like it no longer existed.

A brewing battle for union rights, jobs

As China Savings Bank tries to complete its takeover of Planters Development Bank, the latter’s long-standing employees are forced to assert their rights of tenure, union and job security.

Since November 11, the management panel in the collective bargaining negotiations with PDB union said it cannot commit to anything anymore because it no longer has authority to negotiate.

Plantersbank employees press management to continue negotiations for collective bargaining agreement (Dec 2015, Makati City. Photo by M. Salamat / Bulatlat.com)
Planters Bank employees press management to continue negotiations for collective bargaining agreement (December 2015, Makati City. Photo by M. Salamat / Bulatlat.com)

It then began offering a retire-rehire scheme among the 900-plus employees of PDB. It was touted as voluntary at first, but by December 23, last banking day of 2015, the “offer” turned compulsory, according to union leaders.

They said bank executives put pressure on employees to agree to a retire-rehire scheme if they wanted a chance at being hired by China Savings Bank.

But some employees apparently will no longer have a chance – like those which in China Savings Bank are already being handled by contractual employees of third party agencies.

Compared to China Savings Bank, Planters Bank employees’ union opposition to Bangko ng Sentral Pilipinas (BSP) circulars allowing outsourcing of bank functions resulted in some 900-plus employees in PDB still having regular jobs.

The BSP Circular No. 268 authorizes outsourcing of several banking functions to third party service providers and since then has been blamed by bank unions for contractualization in the industry.

Anna Leah Escresa, executive director of non-government labor education group Eiler, said the employees’ union of Planters Development Bank has succeeded in defying BSP Circular No. 268; “now the management wants to undo its victory and weaken the local union which has staunchly opposed contractualization.”

On January 6, Planter Bank employees union filed a Notice of Strike before the National Conciliation and Mediation Board of the Labor Department, saying that the termination of 11 employees and derailing of CBA negotiation “only proves that indeed the management of Chinabank and Plantersbank together with the owner, Henry Sy, are trying to bust the employees union and further contractualize bank function/positions.”

On the same day, they held a picket protest in front of the bank’s main office in H. V. dela Costa Street, Makati City.

“It is our contention, following the derailed CBA negotiation with management, that the peddling of retire-rehire with employees and the termination of eleven (11) of our members including six (6) of our Union CBA panellists, that Management is trying to bust our union. This is illegal and we’ll stand together against it”, said Mark Oliver Gonzales, President of PDBEA (Planters Development Bank Employees Association).

Gonzales said the management excuse about no longer having authority to negotiate is “very much immature.”

“Planters Bank continues to exist as a bank entity and its management is duty-bound to collectively bargain with its employees, with us PDBEA, under existing laws”, Gonzales said.

In their picket-protest, January 6, bank employees also showed photos of business tycoon Henry Sy, owner of China Bank and now of Planters Bank, and their calls: “Recant Termination”, “Continue and Conclude the CBA” and “Respect, Recognize PDBEA upon merger”.

Henry Sy, 91, is said to be the richest man in the Philippines for the past seven years now. Forbes magazine estimates his and his family’s Real Time Net Worth as of January 5 this year at $13.5 billion. The tycoon’s family has interests in retailing, real estate, hospitality, banking, mining, education including healthcare services. ()

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