Philippine media

NLRC orders SunStar to pay 11 dismissed workers in Cagayan de Oro

Herbie Gomez
NLRC orders SunStar to pay 11 dismissed workers in Cagayan de Oro

LABOR. Former staff of SunStar and Super Balita Cagayan de Oro sue their ex-employer for alleged labor violations.

Courtesy of Lynde Salgados

Labor Arbiter Jean Domaboc-Munez says the media company failed to prove that it suffered serious business losses so as to warrant nonpayment of the workers' separation benefits

The National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) has ordered SunStar-Cagayan de Oro Inc. to pay journalists and its other workers that were left jobless when the firm stopped printing its two newspapers in the city in 2020.

In a 12-page decision, Labor Arbiter Jean Domaboc-Munez ordered the media company to give 11 of its former media workers their separation, holiday, and service incentive leave benefits plus nominal damages of P20,000 each, and attorney’s fees.

Munez also ordered the company to pay four of the workers salary differentials.

The NLRC ruling was signed on April 30, but details were made known only on late Friday night, May 21, by the workers’ lawyer, Beverly Selim-Musni.

The NLRC said each of the workers should be given separation pay equivalent to one month or at least half of the monthly salary for every year of service, or whichever is higher.

The company ceased publishing SunStar-Cagayan de Oro and the tabloid SunStar Superbalita on June 30, 2020, due to what the firm claimed to be years of “irrecoverable losses.” In a public notice in 2020, the company said the COVID-19 pandemic aggravated the situation, prompting it to opt for permanent closure.

Munez said while the closure was valid, all the complainants were still entitled to the standard benefits.

She said the respondents failed to prove that the company suffered serious business losses so as to warrant nonpayment of separation benefits.

Munez noted a lack of procedural due process – the workers were not properly notified about the June 30, 2020 closure. The notice of closure was sent to only two supervisory officers when the legal requirement is one month prior notice served personally and individually.

She said the release and quitclaims presented by Sunstar executives showed the workers’ signatures with “under protest” notations.

The dismissed workers brought their case to the NLRC against Sunstar Publishing Inc. presiding chair Gina Atienza, and Sunstar-Cagayan de Oro Inc. president Julius Neri Jr. in February.

Those who sued the company were journalists Pamela Jay Orias, Lynde Salgados, Jenefer Besere, Stephanie Berganio, and Alwen Sariling. They were joined by dismissed workers Jason Abao, Ramoncito Mugot Jr., Kris May Love Sialana, Johnny Lumod, John Michael Ang, and Ruel Linao.

Musni said the staff of other Sunstar regional outfits should take note of the plight of their Cagayan de Oro counterparts and “the interplay of Sunstar-Cagayan de Oro Inc. with Sunstar Publishing Inc.” –