MANILA – ABS-CBN Corp said on July 15 it would retrench workers starting August 31 after it failed to secure a fresh franchise from Congress, earlier forewarned by CEO Carlo Katigbak as “very painful” during the COVID-19 pandemic when jobs are scarce.
The layoffs will span the Lopez-owned network’s operations, mostly those that are most affected by the broadcast sign-off that cost P35 million daily. A leaner ABS-CBN will test its digital shift, as pursued by Katigbak, which sought to bring content to mobile devices through apps and social media channels.
“We are doing all we can to mitigate the pain that will be felt by those affected, including paying out separation and retirement benefits and providing job placement programs. The loss of their jobs comes at a time when the uncertain and perilous impact of the COVID-19 pandemic further makes our decision truly difficult, but inevitable,” ABS-CBN said in a statement.
The laid off ABS-CBN workers will need to look for a new job in an economy that is all but officially in a recession due to the coronavirus lockdown. In April, the number of jobless Filipinos ballooned to 7.3 million after the unemployment rate soared to a record 17.7 percent.
Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa recently drew flak for saying in a press conference with Senate media that ABS-CBN workers should just look for new jobs if they are retrenched. Dela Rosa said pandemic uncertainties spared no one. The head of the ABS-CBN supervisory employees union, Raul de Asis, that at his age of 47, it would be difficult for him to land a new job.
The House franchise committee denied ABS-CBN's application for a fresh 25-year license last Friday. During marathon hearings, lawmakers scrutinized the citizenship of Chairman Emeritus Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez III, the company’s ownership structure and alleged biased reporting. ABS-CBN's franchise expired last May 4 and it signed off the day after for the first time in three decades. The last time ABS-CBN shut down was during martial law in the 1970s.
Wearing face masks, Katigbak, COO for Broadcast Cory Vidanes and news chief Ging Reyes took turns answering lawmakers’ questions until late into the night. President Rodrigo Duterte had repeatedly criticized ABS-CBN for airing a critical ad during the 2016 campaign, at one point saying, “I will see to it that you are out.” ABS-CBN apologized in February and Duterte accepted it.