The National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) upholds the earlier decision of its arbiter declaring talents from the Talents Association of GMA (TAG) as regular employees of the Network.
In a decision by the NLRC Special Fourth Division signed by Commissioner Numeranio Villena on September 30, 2015, the 106 TAG members were declared “regular employees of GMA Network Inc. and as such are entitled to security of tenure and all benefits and rights appurtenant to their status.”
The decision follows GMA Network’s appeal of the Arbiter Resolution last June bearing the same findings.
Commissioner Villena said in his decision that Labor Arbiter Julio Gayaman “did not commit a reversible error” in declaring the talents as regular employees.
Citing the Begino vs ABS-CBN case last April 2015, Commissioner Villena notes that while the law acknowledges the validity of fixed-term employment contracts, the Supreme Court has consistently stressed that if the “stipulated periods of employment have been imposed to preclude the acquisition of tenurial security by the employee,” such arrangement should be struck down “for being contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order or public policy.”
GMA Talents are given fixed-term contracts ranging from 3 months to 5 years, and are continuously renewed for up to more than a decade.
Before its implementation of the Project Employment Contract (PEC), which was GMA’s response to regularization demands, talents were not given any statutory benefits and other entitlements such as overtime pay, holiday pay and 13th month pay.
Commissioner Villena also stressed that if the talent has been performing the job for over a year, the law “deems the repeated or continuing performance as sufficient evidence of the necessity, if not indispensability in the business.”
Talents signed a written agreement stipulating the absence of an employee-employer relationship but Article 280 of the Labor Code 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
The fourth item, the power to control, is the most important test. In its appeal to the Arbiter decision, GMA Network claimed that talents perform their jobs outside of GMA’s control.
In a two-part detailed analysis published last July, TAG belied such claim.
Commissioner Villena’s decision also denies GMA’s claim.
It has been established by substantial evidence presented by both parties that GMA not only reserved the right to control the end result of complainants’ work, GMA also exercised actual control and supervision over the manner, methods, and means utilized by complainants in performing and accomplishing their jobs.
With this recent decision, Talents can now claim full entitlement to benefits accorded to regular employees.
Eight TAG members who have previously left their positions were cited in the decision as resigned personnel, but are still afforded security of tenure and benefits “up to the date immediately preceding their effective dates of resignation.”
What Happens Now?
NLRC shall issue an entry of judgment within 30 days for the decision to be executory, but GMA Network may file for a motion for reconsideration within 10 days.
GMA Network can also file for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and other legal impediments before the Court of Appeals to delay the proceedings.
Depending on the results, the case may reach as high up as the Supreme Court.
Nevertheless, TAG is confident that the decisions of the arbiter and commissioner of the NLRC are affirmations that we have a solid case for regularization.
We are also confident that the Supreme Court will render a favorable ruling should the case reach their hands.
GMA Network has consistently used the ABS-CBN vs Sonza case in 2004 where the Supreme Court ruled that Jose Sonza was not a regular employee of ABS-CBN.
But last April 2015, SC set a new precedent. In its favorable ruling to talents of ABS-CBN Naga, SC made a clear distinction between Sonza and the talents from ABS-CBN Naga. It said that talents are not television personalities with fat paychecks like Sonza. The SC also noted that Sonza’s company was the one engaged with ABS-CBN not Sonza himself, while talents were engaged individually. The Supreme Court noted the Sonza case could not be applied to Network talents — talents like us.
This new precedent — ABS-CBN Naga (Begino vs ABS-CBN) case — was largely cited in Commissioner Villena’s ruling.
We Stand To Fight
Our group has been through a lot since filing the case last year.
We have endured discrimination inside the Network such as being excluded from Christmas bonus, getting banned from undertaking tasks outside our programs which has significantly reduced our income, and our salaries were reverted to checks and released only upon the issuance of an Acknowledgment Receipt.
We staged a protest to call out these forms of harassment but instead of granting us a dialogue, our members were suspended from 15 to 30 days without pay.
The Network also terminated 11 of our members, including TAG President Christian Cabaluna, on grounds that up to now still remain unclear.
We are aware that there will be more hurdles that await us. This is a test of patience and a test of our commitment to fight for what is right.
We’re not doing this just for ourselves. We are doing this for every one of our colleagues in the media industry who have dedicated their lives to this craft without proper compensation and social security.
This victory is also for our colleagues from the GMA regional bureaus who were unjustly retrenched. May this victory serve as an example of what you can achieve by working together so justice may be given.
By doing this, we also hope to give voice to other workers and laborers who have been victimized by this illegal scheme.
Enough is enough.
We stand with the workers of Tanduay and the call center agents who are stepping up for their respective industries to call out these heartless businessmen who enjoy profiting from our skills and passion, and do not lose a night’s sleep when they step on our rights as laborers.
We are doing this because we have spent years documenting the lives of the marginalized while telling them that it is our job to point out holes in the system. That by doing our jobs, we can help fix what is broken. That by doing our jobs, we can improve policies and that we may come a step closer to giving justice to the labor force.
This is us doing our jobs.
If we do not do this, we will lose our moral ascendancy to invoke our creed to seek the truth.
We’ve said it over and over again: we are committed to see this fight through, and we will continue to fight so we can win for you, too.
Ito ang aming serbisyong totoo. Patuloy kaming maninindigan para sa inyo.