The Court of Appeals (CA) yesterday ordered broadcasting company GMA to reinstate 51 workers it terminated for protesting against the company, further declaring that the “regular” employees are also entitled to back wages and other benefits.
It was way back in 2014 when the petitioners filed a case against GMA after they were fired for organizing a rally complaining about what they characterized as the company’s “unfair labor practices,” according to local media reports. The company said that by participating in the protest, more than a dozen of those workers had caused work delays, which was grounds for termination.
However, the CA said that GMA failed to prove that those workers were guilty of habitual neglect of duty, and should not have been fired from their jobs. The court also considered the remainder of the 51 employees had been improperly dismissed when GMA did not offer to renew their contracts after they expired.
The CA ruled that there was an employer-employee relationship between GMA and the 51 petitioners, contrary to the media company’s insistence that they were independent contractors whose services could be terminated in the event they breached their contracts, the Philippine Star reports.
The CA cited the case of Begino v. ABS-CBN Corp., in which the Supreme Court stated the difference between an employee and a contractor. “[T]he General Terms of petitioners’ Talent Agreements clearly show that they are regular employees of GMA and not independent contractors,” the CA said.
“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,” the CA added.
As of Nov. 30, 2016, GMA owed PHP21.43 million (US$412,155) in back wages to the employees, and the CA said the local labor arbiter should recompute the amount, adding that those who resigned while the case was being tried are still eligible for back pay.
GMA was founded in 1950 by American journalist Robert Stewart, and is currently owned by Felipe Gozon, who is also its chairman and chief executive officer.