Friday, December 17, 2010

Business World is falling apart... Or so it seems.

A old friend in the newspaper business told me about this a few days ago. Seems Business World (BW) is falling apart after coming under the management of Manny V. Pangilinan (MVP).

If you read BW, like me, you'd be a bit concerned that one of your favorite sources of business news may be going under.

Here's something that I received in my e-mail, read on.

MVP directors inactive in paper’s board meetings

Unusually, the three designated representatives of tycoon Manuel V. Pangilinan sitting on the board of Business World Publishing Corp. have been skipping recent meetings of the board, eliciting suspicions from some employees of the Quezon City based broadsheet that their absence was their way of expressing MVP’s frustration on the paper, especially on the groups failure to wield their influence on the business daily.

MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., the media conglomerate owned by the Beneficial Trust Fund of the Philippine Long Distance Company owns 30% of Business World that they acquired from the Zobels. It also owns other media establishments such as Associated Broadcasting Corp., which airs TV 5, Cignal Digital TV and broadsheets Philippine Daily Inquirer and Philippine Star.

The MVP representatives in the board of the Business World include Orlando Vea, president of MediaQuest Holdings and former Ambassador to the US, Albert del Rosario. Their absence from the paper’s recent board meetings have set off talks that MVP is deliberately distancing himself because of labor issues that could disrupt the operations of the company.

Early this year, Business World employees received the bad news direct from management that the company would no longer give the traditional bonuses and incentives due to them because of business reverses. In all, employees had been receiving 16-month bonuses from the company consisting of the anniversary bonus, Christmas bonus, the legally mandated 13th month pay and the mid-year bonus plus one sack of rice monthly subsidy.

Through its late founding President, publisher, editor-in-chief and chairman, Raul Lacson Locsin, formally committed these bonuses and clearly stated it in the company’s Employees’ Handbook. Glaringly, this was a preemptive move to dissuade early employees, mostly remnants of forerunner Business Day, from putting up a union. Management then even had to secure bank loans to answer these obligations to the employees.

Union busting

Latest events, however, have rocked the paper. With the company experiencing financial problems, fast employee turnover and dwindling circulation subscription figures, the newly installed management team had to sell its commercial printing equipment and laid off half of its printing plant man force. It sold the newly constructed RLL Building fronting E. Rodriguez Avenue in Quezon City to keep the company afloat and liquid. It is also currently reducing critical items of expense in running the com, primarily the granting of bonuses and incentives and delayed payment of sales commissions. But knowledgeable employees know better and think that this is a clear case of mismanagement from the new managerial team who doesn’t have the skill of running a paper.

The situation has alarmed employees, prompting some of them to meet clandestinely to discuss the idea of organizing a union. However, came to know about it and immediately moved against the suspected employee leaders. Identifying the allege prime movers they initially banned them from entering the printing premises as a preemptive action.

One Romeo Bachiller, head of the internal audit section, was constructively demoted to a lower position but justifying it as a lateral transfer, he eventually retired. Eric Clemente, Advertising deskman, was also effectively demoted and his monthly pay drastically cut.

Clemente has lodged a formal suit with the Labor Department but he was eventually discharged from employment last week for “tardiness during lunch breaks.” He is set to file another case with the Labor Department for illegal dismissal and union busting.

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