CA orders GMA to reinstate 51 dismissed workers, release backpay

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A division of the Court of Appeals orders GMA Network to reinstate 51 dismissed "talents," saying that they are regular workers of the media giant entitled to back wages and benefits.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 25) — The Court of Appeals has ordered GMA Network to reinstate 51 "talents" who were dismissed for joining a protest rally years ago, declaring them as regular workers of the station.

The court's Fifteenth Division instructed the media firm owned by Felipe Gozon to bring back 51 workers who were removed or unrenewed for their posts. The workers were part of the Talents Association of GMA-7.

The petitioners filed a case against the network in 2014, saying some of them were terminated because they took part in a protest picket against "unfair labor practices" of GMA. The court's decision reverses a 2017 decision of the National Labor Relations Commission.

The network argued those who joined the picket took unauthorized absences to cause work delays, saying it was a "breach" in talent agreements and was a ground for dismissal. But the court said that 15 of its employees who joined the protests against the network were not guilty of gross and habitual neglect of duty, and should not merit termination from work.

"The terms and conditions of petitioners' Talent Agreements and General Terms show that they are not independent contractors and are regular employees of GMA," the appellate court said in its February 19 decision.

The association also accused the network of harrassment when it banned workers from handling two or more programs, and when it shifted the release of salaries to checks from direct bank deposits, which caused "great inconvenience."

"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," it added.

As of November 30, 2016, the labor arbiter computed ₱21.43 million in back wages for 35 GMA employees. The court ordered the arbiter to recompute the amounts due.

"Petitioners are entitled to reinstatement without loss of seniority rights, full backwages inclusive of allowances, and any and all benefits regular employees of GMA receives computed from the time his or her compensation was withheld up to the time of his or her actual reinstatement to GMA," the court ordered.

The court also clarified that 15 of the workers who submitted their resignation letters in the middle of the case are still entitled to receive back pay.

Another CA division which declared 101 workers as regular employees dismissed an appeal of GMA Network.