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Ex-workers sue SunStar Cagayan de Oro for alleged labor violations

Former journalists and media workers from the defunct SunStar Cagayan de Oro and Super Balita Cagayan de Oro have filed labor complaints against their former employers.

Both news media outlets, which ceased most of their operations on June 30, 2020, were owned by SunStar Publishing Incorporated with headquarters in Cebu City.

The former employees filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Commission Region 10 on February 9 for alleged illegal dismissal, nonpayment and underpayment of salaries, holiday benefits, service incentive leave, and 13th month pay, among others.

They also accused SunStar of neglect for its supposed nonpayment of employees' insurance coverages and non-remittance of their SSS, Pag-IBIG, and PhilHealth contributions since February 2019.

The 11 complainants were:

  • Jenefer Besere (Super Balita)
  • Kris May Love Sialana (Super Balita)
  • Stephanie Berganio (Super Balita)
  • Alwen Sariling (SunStar CDO)
  • Pamela Jay Orias (SunStar CDO)
  • Lynde Salgados (SunStar CDO)
  • Johnny Lumod (Super Balita and SunStar CDO)
  • John Michael Ang (Super Balita and SunStar CDO)
  • Ramoncito Ang Mugot Jr (Super Balita and SunStar CDO)
  • Jason Abao (Super Balita and SunStar CDO)
  • Ruel Linao (Super Balita and SunStar CDO)

Salgados, who spent 25 years with SunStar CDO, lamented the company's lack of compassion and transparency.

"I have spent my years here. I raised my kids using SunStar salary. But during the pandemic, they abandoned us and they did not even provide any aid for us," Salgados said.

"I don't think SunStar would go bankrupt if they gave their staff a sack of rice or even some money to assist us in job seeking," Salgados added.

The complainants also questioned their former employers, saying these did not entirely cease operations. SunStar CDO retained its website edition, a journalist, and a marketing supervisor.

Labor lawyer Beverly Musni, counsel of the workers, earlier told Mindanao Goldstar Daily that the complainants were improperly notified of their termination and the companies' supposed closure.

"Security of tenure is a right of workers against unlawful dismissal," Musni told Mindanao Goldstar Daily.

Named as respondents were Julius Neri, president and general manager of  SunStar Publishing Inc, and Gina Marie Atienza, president of SunStar CDO and Super Balita CDO.

Rappler sought Jasper Pelayo, legal counsel of SunStar Publishing Inc, for comment but he has yet to reply as of this posting.

SunStar Cagayan de Oro is among the many community news organizations severely affected by COVID-19. (READ: Closure, job cuts: Why COVID-19 spells death for community journalism)

Many national news groups, such as the Philippine Daily Inquirer and CNN Philippines, also had to cut jobs and expenditures to survive the pandemic.

global study by the International Center for Journalists and the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University showed that an overwhelming majority of their 1,400 respondents said their most significant need during the coronavirus pandemic was funding to cover operating costs, including journalists' salaries. – with reports from Camille Elemia/Rappler.com