MANILA, Philippines – The talent system is used by big corporations in the media industry to skirt the Labor Code and evade the required provision of workers’ benefits, a network of college editors in the country said.
On Tuesday, February 3, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) expressed support for the plight of over a hundred former and present talents of network giant GMA-7 to gain regular employee status.
CEGP backed the bid of the Talents Association of GMA (TAG) to end a system that denies long-time talents benefits accorded an employee who has worked exclusively for the network for more than 6 months, saying it is “hindi makatarungang praktika (unjust practice).”
At least 52 TAG members lost their network positions in 2014 for refusing to accept a revised project-based, year-long contract that fell short of regularization in what was seen as a sign-or-get-fired offer by the network.
Like most big-time networks, GMA-7 considers talents as independent contractors despite their years of work. Their status deprives them of security of tenure, among others.
Talents are the technical and creative runners behind GMA-7’s highly-rated news and public affairs programs, where the program administrator and program manager are typically the only regular employees.
TAG’s regularization cases were filed in two batches in 2014 before the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC).
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CEGP likewise condemned GMA-7’s reported withholding of salaries of the sacked talents pending “final clearance,” which requires a talent’s submission of a resignation letter.
Reel Time executive producer and TAG Vice President Shao Masula questioned the policy, saying the talents did not resign but were told to stop reporting to work over their refusal to sign the revised talent contract.
Sought for comment about the withheld final pay of terminated talents, GMA-7 chose to keep mum on the issue.
“Unfortunately, the Network cannot give a statement right now given that the case is still pending in court,” said Kristine Palaganas, assistant publicity manager at GMA-7. “We would rather discuss matters relating to the issue in the proper forum.”
One of the 52 sacked, former Motorcycle Diaries segment producer Arci Formales regarded the company policy as an “act of harassment.” Formales said their final pay had already been allotted for various bills and monthly expenses.
‘Courage is contagious’
The student network of editors said such treatment by GMA-7 of its workers should be protested.
In its statement written in Filipino, CEGP made the comparison between the “big earnings” of “big corporations in media” and the “continued oppression of workers and employees who experience long hours at work in their offices and even in distant areas without the corresponding overtime and hazard pay.”
TAG president and Imbestigador associate producer Christian Cabaluna said he is “glad” that students from CEGP have realized the value of standing up for media workers’ rights “as early as now.”
“Courage is really contagious… It’s good to know that CEGP understands the value of what we are fighting for,” Cabaluna told Rappler.
“Because this is not just TAG’s fight. It’s the fight of every student who wishes to have a stable, fair and lawful employment in the industry that we all love,” he added.
Aside from being contractually obligated to work exclusively for GMA-7, talents are likewise a ready set of people the network can tap for coverage other than those stipulated in their talent agreements, including breaking news, election coverage, and special reports.
Included in the NLRC case are talents from the following GMA-7 shows: Imbestigador; Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho; Reporter’s Notebook; Aha, Reel Time; I Juander; Wagas; Brigada; Tonight with Arnold Clavio; Tunay na Buhay; SONA; News To Go; QRT; Balita Pilipinas Ngayon; Motorcycle Diaries; Power House; Sumbungan ng Bayan; Unang Hirit; Front Row; Good News; and Special Assignments. – Rappler.com
Photo of GMA-7 building and logo from Wikimedia commons