MANILA, Philippines – Over 100 “talents” of network giant GMA-7 have banded together to protest their employer’s refusal to consider them as regular employees despite years of service they’ve rendered.
In a position paper dated November 10, members of the newly-formed Talents Association of GMA (TAG) said that some of them have, for at least 6 months, and others even for as long as 15 years, been rendering work to the media company, yet have not become regular employees.
Slamming what they called “unfair labor practice” and risking their jobs in the process, TAG members filed a case before the labor arbiter last May. They argued that they should be qualified for regularization and accompanying benefits because they have been rendering work that is “necessary and desirable” in the ordinary course of the network’s business.
In an attempt to reach a compromise with them, the network offered an alternative contract called the Project Employment Contract (PEC). Signing this contract would signal consent to GMA-7’s terms, primary of which is acceding to being mere project-based, rather than regular, employees.
Under the PEC, talents are offered similar benefits that a regular employee enjoys, such as SSS, Pag-ibig, and Philhealth. The contract however expires in a year, which still does not afford signatories security of tenure.
Talents were given until early November to sign the PEC or lose their present positions by the end of December, TAG members told Rappler. They also said the PEC reflects their employer’s “callousness.”
But Regino Moreno, counsel for GMA-7 in the case, said they are ready and willing to “exhaust all options” including eventually appealing before the Supreme Court.
“We will protect the interests of our clients and exhaust everything within the bounds of law and procedures,” he said.
With the case now pending before the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), it is just a matter of time before appeals, one after another, are filed by either side. The NLRC is bound by law to decide on the case 30 days after it is submitted for resolution.
Reel Time Executive Producer Eleazar del Rosario believes it’s about time to reform the talent system, which is a practice not exclusive to GMA-7, but most, if not all, television networks
Legacy to the industry
TAG president Christian Cabaluna, associate producer of Imbestigador, a crime-reports-turned-investigative show, decried the network’s treatment of talents as “second-class citizens.”
Cabaluna said this is reflected in small benefits such as inclusion in company raffles and basketball leagues to bigger ones such as free service in the company clinic and provision of hazard pay.
Reel Time Executive Producer Ely Del Rosario, also a TAG member, said their regularization case will be their legacy to the industry. He believes it’s about time to reform the talent system, which is a practice not exclusive to GMA-7, but most, if not all, television networks.
Cabaluna and Del Rosario want talents from across networks to eventually be able to unionize, hoping their case will get the ball rolling.
While acknowledging that it is well within TAG’s right to conduct public forums and organize themselves, Moreno expressed dismay at the group’s approach to the case.
“These matters should not be ventilated before the bar of public opinion,” he said. “They are trying to generate public opinion and gain public sympathy, but then the public cannot resolve the issue,” he added.
Cabaluna and Del Rosario, however, maintain that there is a need to ignite conversation about how media practitioners can be given protection commensurate to their jobs.
A GMA-7 show usually has only two regular employees consisting of the program manager and the program administrator, Del Rosario said. The rest are considered talents based on an often year-long contract signed with the network. Executive producers like him are given more years.
However, the same contract forbids them from working for another media company.
The exclusivity clause in a standard GMA-7 talent agreement reads: “TALENT will not render, for compensation or otherwise, any service for or in any other television, radio, cable or internet production of any person, firm, corporation or entity, without the prior written consent of GMA.”
Cabaluna and other talents believe this is an indication that they “are not independent contractors but regular employees of GMA-7.”
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, Special Assignments. – Rappler.com
Photo of GMA-7 building from Wikimedia commons