PART 1: GMA’s arguments why TAG members are not regular employees
(READ PART 2 HERE: [Analysis] PART 2: GMA’s arguments why TAG members are not regular employees)
GMA Network Inc. filed an appeal Monday, July 6, before the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) following the Arbiter’s decision ten days earlier declaring members of the Talents Association of GMA (TAG) as regular employees. (READ: [News] GMA talents declared as regular employees by labor arbiter)
GMA’s stand has always been that TAG members signed a Talent Agreement that states the absence of an employer-employee relationship. In a decision penned by Arbiter Julio Gayaman, he cited Article 280 of the Labor Code that quashes the power of any written agreement if a worker passes a 4-way test:
- GMA has the power to hire us
- GMA has the power to dismiss us
- GMA pays us wages
- GMA has control over our conduct
GMA submitted a 5-inch thick appeal to argue that TAG members do not pass that 4-way test.
In the first part of this series, we will show you their arguments which pertain to the 4th item—control over our conduct—and disprove each of them with what really happens inside the Network. Former GMA Talents, now project employees, and the rest of the regular employees, could attest to the truth of our dispute.
GMA CLAIMS THEY DON’T CONTROL TAG MEMBERS’ WORK
WHAT GMA SAYS: We run the show by ourselves, and the Network does not, in any way, control what we do with these shows.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENS:
PUBLIC AFFAIRS DEPARTMENT:
Executive Producers (EP) of Public Affairs Programs are Talents. EPs have maximum supervision over the production but it’s always the Program Manager who has final approval.
- Researchers or Segment Producers (Talents) pitch the story.
- It is ultimately approved by the Program Manager (Network) with his/her instructions.
- Segment Producer (Talent) drafts an outline of the story: which elements to include, who to interview and what to look for.
- The Program Manager (Network) ultimately approves this outline with his/her instructions and gives the go signal to start shooting.
- The team of talents drafts a budget proposal.
- The Production Administrator (Network) approves this budget proposal and gives the team authorization to withdraw money from the Network cashier. (Talents are required to liquidate their expenses to the Program Administrator within 7 days).
- After shooting, the Segment Producer (Talent) writes the script.
- The script is ultimately approved by the Program Manager (Network) with his/her instructions.
- The Editor (Talent) edits the story, and the final product is, again, approved by the Program Manager (Network) before it goes on air.
Executive Producers of News programs are regular employees, and therefore represent the Network.
- The Executive Producer picks out the stories for the day.
- The EP lines them up and assigns them to Writers and Producers (Talents).
- Writers and Producers write their scripts, with the EP or the Program Manager’s instructions.
- Writers and Producers write their scripts based on reports and summaries provided by Reporters and the News Desk (Network).
- The scripts are edited and approved by the EP and the Program Manager (Network).
- The EP chooses which to air among the stories written by the writers and producers.
News Segment Producers and Researchers follow the same flow as those in the Public Affairs Department.
For News Bulletins (Flash Report and News TV Live), Executive Producers who write and air the reports are Talents, but they are still supervised by their respective Program Managers.
GMA CLAIMS THEY DO NOT HAVE EXPERTISE
WHAT GMA SAYS: GMA Network does not know anything about what Talents do, therefore it is impossible to control Talents. To put it simply, the Network is saying that its Program Managers and Executive Producers do not know anything about news and public affairs production.
WHAT’S REALLY HAPPENING: We believe that it is an insult to the Program Managers and Executive Producers to be described on a legal paper as “not having expertise” to “accomplish the job” of Talents. Program Managers and Executive Producers were once Talents—they were researchers and producers before they were promoted. The reason for their promotion is precisely because of their expertise. It is also this expertise that we, Talents, respect and so diligently follow. It is this expertise that craft the shows.
GMA CLAIMS THEY MERELY GIVE GUIDELINES
PUBLIC AFFAIRS DEPARTMENT:
WHAT GMA SAYS: For Public Affairs programs, the Network—the Program Manager—merely gives the Talents guidelines, and Talents have “full control of what content would like to be aired.”
WHAT’S REALLY HAPPENING: As already explained in Exhibit 1, the Program Manager has final approval of what goes on air.
WHAT GMA SAYS: For News programs, Talents do not have supervision from the Network—the Program Manager and Executive Producer. Talents “supply the news anchors with the news to be reported as well as the script for the same.”
WHAT’S REALLY HAPPENING: It is absurd to say that talents “supply the anchors with news” without supervision from the Program Managers and Executive Producers. Again, as explained in Exhibit 1, News Producers and writers cannot even begin to write their scripts without assignment from their Executive Producer. The Executive Producer approves the scripts first; the Program Manager last. They’re also the ones in the control room deciding which reports to air.
There are even instances when content checking goes up as high as the Assistant Vice President (AVP) and the Senior Vice President (SVP) for both News and Public Affairs programs.
For several programs, particularly “Imbestigador,” a lawyer from GMA Network even sits in on the meetings, assesses the legal gray areas, and is the one to give the go signal to the story.
Not to mention that Talents cannot even begin to shoot if the Network does not provide them with shooting equipment and the cameramen that operate these equipment. They cannot proceed to coverage without vehicles and drivers from the Network.
Furthermore, the Network issues memorandums whenever Talents commit errors. We are asked to explain and defend ourselves, and if these explanations do not satisfy them, we will be meted out with penalties such as suspensions.
Talents are issued with an Ethics and Editorial Manual and are made to sign a consent form that says “I accept the obligation to read its content, educate myself on its provisions and apply these in the performance of my craft.”
Every item in the Manual has a corresponding penalty.
These are clear control over our conduct.
GMA News and Public Affairs has established itself to become the trusted and credible news organization it is today because we are led by industry veterans who make sure that all the stories we air are consistent with the values and principles of the Network. These are the very same people who, GMA Network said in its appeal, have no expertise and do not control the content of stories.
Program Managers, Executive Producers and all our other leaders in the organization should be appalled that the Network is suggesting they’re not doing anything but letting us—the Talents—run everything.
Other Networks and Media Organizations might recognize our operations to be similar with theirs. This also serves as a call for them to insist that they should be recognized as regular employees, and avail of the rights and benefits provided for by the Law.
NEXT: In the second part of this series, we discuss GMA’s arguments pertaining to the first item of the 4-way test: the power to hire, and how their claims are very different from facts. READ HERE: [Analysis] PART 2: GMA’s arguments why TAG members are not regular employees
(RELATED ARTICLE: [Infographic] It’s Complicated: Employment Status of Media Practitioners)