SC orders reinstatement, back wages for 30 illegally dismissed GMA workers
This file photo shows the Supreme Court compound in Padre Faura, Manila.
Philstar.com/Erwin Cagadas
SC orders reinstatement, back wages for 30 illegally dismissed GMA workers
Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - September 22, 2020 - 5:50pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court ordered media giant GMA Network to reinstate 30 cameramen and assistant cameramen — all terminated in May 2013 — and pay them back wages since their illegal dismissal.

The SC Public Information Office said in a statement that the tribunal’s Third Division, in a ruling on July 13 but made public only on Tuesday, declared the 30 petitioners as regular employees of GMA.

The court has also ordered the media network to pay their back wages, allowances, and other benefits, including attorney’s fees equivalent to 10% of the total monetary award accruing to each of them. “The amounts due to each petitioner shall bear legal interest at the rate of six percent per annum, to be computed from finality of Court’s decision until full payment,” the PIO said.

The SC sent back the case to the Labor Abiter for the computation of the petitioners’ backwages and other monetary awards.

Petitioners are regular employees

The case involves 30 cameramen and assistant cameramen who were between 2005 and 2011, but were all dismissed in May 2013.

The SC, in a ruling penned by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, held that there is an employer-employee relationship between the petitioners and GMA Network.

GMA, according to the SC PIO statement, argued that the petitioners were considered independent contractors and not employees. Independent contractors must be hired for their unique skills and talents and the media company would have no control over the means and methods of their work.

But the SC held that “there was no showing that at all that the employees, who were paid a meager salary ranging from P750 to P1500 per taping, were hired because of their unique skills, talent and celebrity status not possessed by ordinary employees.”

Camera operators' work within network's usual business 

It also noted that GMA provided the equipment for their use, and supervisors were assigned to them.

The SC also held that the petitioners are regular employees, as they performed necessary functions for GMA’s business, and thus enjoy the right to security of tenure.

The Court held that the camera operators’ work for GMA are within the network’s regular and usual business, and not distinct from the company’s undertakings as  media network.

“The Court held that it cannot enable GMA in hiring and rehiring workers solely depending on its fancy, getting rid of them when, in its mind, they are bereft of prior utility, and with a view to circumvent their right to security of tenure,” the SC PIO also said.

As such, the petitioners may only be terminated over just or authorized cause and after due notice and hearing.

“As illegally dismissed employees, petitioners are entitled to reinstatement to their petitions with full backwages computed from the time of dismissal up to the time of actual reinstatement,” it added.

Media firms urged to protect employee welfare

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines hailed the SC ruling and thanked the division for “recognizing and upholding the rights of media workers, far too many of whom continue to be deprived of benefits of regularization.”

“We call on all media houses to look to the welfare of their employees and fully recognize their rights and privileges,” it added.

RELATED: Labor group: Appeals court ruling on GMA labor case 'proves' fighting for job security is not wrong

The Court of Appeals in February 2020 also ordered the reinstatement of 51 “talents” of GMA Network who were dismissed or whose contracts were no longer renewed after holding a picket outside the network compound.

GMA NETWORK MEDIA SUPREME COURT
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