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‘Di lang ABS-CBN ang may labor issues: CA orders GMA to reinstate 51 illegally dismissed ‘talents’

So-called “talents” of GMA Network, Inc., have continued their streak of vindication against its abusive labor practices, as the Court of Appeals (CA) ordered the reinstatement of 51 workers who were illegally dismissed—some were fired for picketing, while the contracts of others were not renewed.

In a recent 25-page decision, the CA 15th Division declared the talents to be “regular employees of respondent GMA” who were “entitled to reinstatement without loss of seniority rights, full backwages inclusive of allowance, and any and all benefit regular employees of GMA receive.”

The court granted the workers’ petition to set aside the August 31, 2017 resolution of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) dismissing their complaint for illegal dismissal but directing GMA to reinstate them to their former positions without payment of backwages or fees.
The CA again held that the Talent Agreements showed they were “regular employees of GMA and not independent contractors.”

It said GMA failed to prove that it hired the workers because of some peculiar skill or celebrity status and not just the basic requirements for ordinary employees.

It added that unlike true independent contractors, the workers had “no real power to bargain huge talent fees.” Under the contracts of adhesion drafted by the network, they were “at GMA’s mercy as to the amount of talent fees they will paid and [were] under the exclusive and irrevocable right of GMA to renew the contract under the same terms.”

Most importantly, the court pointed out that “GMA’s degree of control and supervision over the works of petitioners show that they have no other option but to comply with GMA’s demands.”

The network required the workers to comply with schedules it fixed and prohibited them from rendering services outside GMA without its consent. On top of this, the contract stipulation that GMA would use efficiency records as basis for termination showed its “high degree of control over petitioners’ work.”

Since the talents were regular employees of GMA, they had the right to security of tenure under the Constitution.

Thus, the court said GMA should not have fired 15 picketing workers for gross and habitual neglect of duty on the basis of unauthorized absences ranging from 7 to 17 days in June 2015.

The network had directed the workers to stop picketing and report for work to meet their production quotas. They were advised by their lawyer and by Talents Association of GMA (TAG) to ask GMA to “put your inquiry in writing so we can respond formally.”

But, the court said that apart from this instance, the network failed to show other instances to prove “habitual” absenteeism.

Meanwhile, GMA only offered the other workers renewal of their contracts days, weeks or even months after expiration, “thus interrupting the continuity of their service.” This was contrary to the stipulation that the network should make the renewal offer prior to the expiration of the contracts.

The network claimed it did not offer renewal for four of the workers because of program changes and cancellations, but the court said it did not present any supporting evidence.

The CA said the non-renewal of the Talent Agreements “constituted constructive and/or illegal dismissal.”
“GMA should have complied with the procedural due process in terminating its employees especially since petitioners are regular employees. It is not enough that petitioners’ contracts were simply not renewed for it to comply with the requirements of the law as far as duly terminating regular employees are concerned,” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Ronaldo Roberto Martin.

Lastly, the court did not believe GMA’s claim that 17 of the workers submitted resignation letters or letters not to accept reinstatement during the pendency of the case. The network only presented photocopies of email exchanges, text messages or chat messages which were not properly authenticated.

The court found one more worker to be legally dismissed for embezzlement of corporate funds and another not entitled to reinstatement because she filed her complaint eight months past the four-year prescriptive period.

‘Di lang ABS-CBN ang may labor issues: CA orders GMA to reinstate 51 illegally dismissed ‘talents’ ‘Di lang ABS-CBN ang may labor issues: CA orders GMA to reinstate 51 illegally dismissed ‘talents’ Reviewed by AsianPolicy.Press on 5:13:00 PM Rating: 5

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