Workers unite! CA denies GMA’s appeal versus regularization of ‘talents’

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The Court of Appeals (CA) has denied the appeal of GMA Network, Inc., the country’s second most-watched television channel, against the regularization of 101 so-called “talents.”

In a recent 2-page resolution, the CA Former Special 14th Division said it found “no compelling reason” to reverse its February 20, 2019 decision in favor of the workers collectively known as the Talents Association of GMA (TAG).

“We find the arguments set forth therein to be plain reiterations of those issues already deliberated and passed upon,” read the resolution penned by Associate Justice Zenaida Galapate-Laguilles.

TAG had previously won its regularization case before the labor arbiter and then the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), whose September 30, 2015 decision was upheld by the CA.

In a statement, TAG said the ruling “only confirms, and reiterates, what has been said before by the CA itself, the Labor Arbiter and the Labor Commission—that we are, undisputably, regular employees of GMA Network.”

However, it bemoaned the possibility of GMA continuing to resist the regularization of its workers and spending its time to pursue legal battles.

“That GMA continues to contest this, with its arsenal of lawyers, only reflects its values as a company that claims its ‘people are our best assets,'” TAG said.

But TAG reiterated its “commitment to push for better labor conditions in the media industry,” despite “meager resources” to pursue the case.

“If GMA takes the option to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, we will welcome the opportunity to present our case to the High Court, and hopefully carve out jurisprudence that can benefit not just media workers, but all contractual workers in the country,” TAG said. “Filipino workers deserve nothing less.”

In its earlier decision, the CA CA upheld the finding that an employer-employee relationship existed, and the workers were not independent contractors as GMA claimed.

The court noted that the TAG talents—including producers, writers, researchers and production assistants for news programs—performed activities which were necessary and essential to GMA’s business of broadcasting television shows.

“Truly, without their work, petitioner GMA would have nothing to air…,” read the decision. “Needless to state, petitioner GMA’s goal was to ensure excellent delivery of its programs to the viewing public. This could not have been achieved had it not been for the skills of the private respondents.”

The successive renewal of the talents’ contracts for one, three or six months, or for one or five years also indicated the necessity of their work. The talents were also found to be highly dependent on the network for continued work.

The court also noted that GMA subjected the talents to its control and supervision, and had the power to discharge talents who fail to meet its standards.

GMA sought to apply the case of Sonza v. ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation, in which broadcast personality Jay Sonza was declared to be a talent and independent contractor and not an employee entitled to security of tenure.

However, the CA pointed out that the TAG talents “lay no claim to fame or unique talents for which talents like actors and personalities are hired and generally compensated in the broadcast industry.”

“The presumption is that when the work done is an integral part of the regular business of the employer and when the worker, relative to the employer, does not furnish an independent business or professional service, such work is a regular employment of such employee and not an independent contractor,” the CA previously said.

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