CA upholds ruling declaring some GMA Network 'talents' regular employees

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 26 2019 04:14 PM

MANILA- The Court of Appeals (CA) has upheld a ruling by the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) declaring some “talents” of GMA Network as regular employees.

In a decision dated Feb. 20, 2019, the CA Special 14th Division said work rendered by GMA’s talents were “necessary and essential” to the company’s broadcasting business.

“The presumption is that when the work done is an integral part of the regular business of the employer and when the worker, relative to the employer, does not furnish an independent business or professional service, such work is a regular employment of such employee and not an independent contractor,” the ruling said.

“Truly, without their work, petitioner GMA would have nothing to air, hence the private respondents’ services in the former’s television program were unquestionably necessary and essential,” it added.

The ruling disregarded the talent agreement signed between the talents and GMA which indicated a fixed period and declared that there was no employer-employee relationship between them.

“The court will peruse beyond any such agreement to examine the facts that typify the parties’ actual relationship,” it said.

It added that “the successive renewals of their contracts indicated the necessity and desirability of their work.”

The talents, members of GMA-7's Talents Association, had filed a regularization complaint before the labor arbiter, which ruled on June 22, 2015 that the talents were, in fact, regular employees.

The NLRC affirmed the Labor Arbiter’s ruling on Sept. 30 of the same year.

In siding with GMA’s talents, the Court applied the four-fold test to determine the existence of an employer-employee relationship:

-Selection and engagement of employee

-Payment of wages

-Power of dismissal

-Employer’s power to control the employee on the means and methods by which work is accomplished

The court found that GMA engaged the talents’ services, gave them company identification cards, and also had the power to fire them.

The CA considered the talents’ fees as wages.

The court also cited the job description of the talents as well as the program standards and policies of GMA-7 as proof that the network had control over their work.

The appellate court did not apply the ruling in Sonza vs ABS-CBN Corp. which recognized an independent contract between television and radio personality Jay Sonza and ABS-CBN's television station.

“The [Sonza] case involved a well-known television and radio personality who was considered a talent and amply compensated as such. While possessed of skills for which they were modestly recompensed by petitioner GMA, private respondents lay no claim to fame or unique talents for which talents like actors and personalities are hired and generally compensated in the broadcast industry,” it said.

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