Fifty-two GMA-7 talents whose contracts were terminated on Dec. 31, 2014 are yet to receive their last salary, Talents Association of GMA (TAG) reported in their Facebook page Buhay Media.
TAG filed a regularization case against the media giant in May of last year, but was answered by GMA-7 with a new contract called the Project Employment Contract (PEC) that, according to TAG members, still does not make them regular workers. Those whose contracts expired by 2014 and who subsequently did not sign the PEC lost their jobs at the end of the year.
However, the salaries of the dismissed talents for work rendered from December 15 to 31 have yet to be released by GMA-7.
“We have allotted that salaries to a lot of things, bills to pay, expenses, what are we supposed to do now? This is clearly an act of harassment,” said former Motorcycle Diaries Segment Producer Arci Formales.
Following their usual payroll scheme, talents were supposed to receive their salaries on January 9. The network’s Production Administrators, who are in-charge of all the administrative matters concerning the talents, gave the reason that the Legal Department is following a “company policy that subjects talents to final clearance” for withholding their salaries. The lack of clearance has something to do with “unissued documents, such as resignation letters.”
But according to Shao Masula, vice president of TAG and Reel Time executive producer, there is no need for such documents.
“Why would they submit a resignation letter when they didn’t resign? They were asked to stop reporting to work,” she said.
When asked again about this clearance and other issues concerning TAG, GMA-7 refused to give a statement as “the case is still pending in court.” The network said that they would rather discuss the issue in the proper forum.
[Ed: The MT staff has reached GMA-7 for an interview since we first reported on this issue, forwarding our list of questions via e-mail ahead of the interview schedule we seek. For the second time, the network refused to answer MT’s questions and instead replied with what we stated above.]
TAG questions the company policy being cited by the Legal Department. According to Christian Cabaluna, president of TAG, other TAG members whose contracts lapsed before the year ended did not undergo any clearance and had received their final pay.
Chloe Garcera-Ben, who is also a TAG member and whose contract expired on October 31, did not undergo the said procedure of completing a clearance and was able to receive her last salary in full. Garcera-Ben did not sign the new PEC on October and as a result, she was asked to stop reporting for work. Garcera-Ben was the head coordinator of Imbestigador’s Sumbungan ng Bayan and worked for GMA-7 for 13 years.
The clearance is a standing operating procedure (SOP) in the company, explained the Production Administrators. It will be sent to other departments for “pending accountabilities.” However, Cabaluna doubts if there is really such thing.
“If there is really a clearance process before leaving the company, it should have been done last November as they have always knew that they will not renew the members of TAG who filed a case,” said Cabaluna.
An act of harassment
For TAG, this is clearly an act of harassment from the network. Cabaluna said that they felt anger upon learning that they will not receive their expected salary on January 9.
“It was very unfair because (as talents) we did not get any bonus at the end of 2014, and now as a new year starts, we still did not get anything even if we have worked for it,” said Cabaluna.
Members of TAG further decry the late notice on non-issuance of salaries. According to them, talents from the Public Affairs Department were only notified via text message on January 7 that they will not be receiving their salaries “until further notice,” while talents from the News Department were only informed the next day upon their own inquiry.
Cabaluna said that it turned out that the Production Administrators already knew that the salaries of the talents to be terminated on December 31 would be withheld. However, they were only informed two days before the expected payday. When the production administrators were asked about the late notification, their only reply was that they were only given instructions to notify them on that date.
Thus, TAG submitted a demand letter to GMA-7 to release their salaries. They are also preparing to file a case on this matter with the Department of Labor and Employment.
18 days after their expected payday, the 52 terminated GMA-7 talents remain clueless on when they will receive their salaries.
“What they (Production Administrators) are always saying is that it (our salary) will be here in no time, but we don’t stop asking them,” said Cabaluna.
Labor case vs. GMA-7
On November 10, 2014, members of TAG filed a labor case against GMA-7 at the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC). The case accused the network of labor malpractice.
As talents, they are not entitled to any benefits such as SSS, PAG-IBIG, and Philhealth despite their “hard work, extended work hours and long years of service to the company”. Talents also work in a “no work, no pay” policy.
But according to the network, this is due to the “fluidity of their working schedule as talents”, unlike the eight-to-five workdays of regular employees.
To answer the concerns raised by TAG, GMA-7 produced the PEC In this new contract, talents will already receive benefits similar with regular employees. However, they will still have to renew their contracts at least every year, which to talents do not give them security of tenure.
Last November 2014, talents were given a deadline to sign the PEC. Those who chose not to sign the PEC will no longer need to report for work. TAG members view this as pre-termination.
“If we submit a resignation letter, it means that we are personally terminating our tenure with GMA-7. They can use that against us, considering that our case is on regularization,” said Cabaluna.
However, not all TAG members were terminated on December 31 after the network allowed more than half of the protesting talents to continue their contracts (in effect before the PEC) that extend beyond 2014, which caused for some members of TAG to leave the group. This was seen by TAG members as ‘divide and conquer tactic’ of the network.
“Divide and conquer is a famous and effective tactic during wars. We are at war and they have the upper hand. That’s why they are using it,” said Cabaluna.
GMA-7’s moves “confusing”
TAG decries the acts of GMA-7 as “clandestine” and “confusing,” saying that the network has not issued any official memo explaining the basis for the termination of the talents and the withholding of their salaries.
The only time that the GMA-7 released a statement on the allegations against the network was on November 24, 2014, where it said that the network “cares for its talents, whom it considers vital to its success.”
But with some of the talents’ salaries being withheld, TAG said that it is ready to “explore all legal actions” in order for the salaries to be released immediately.
For the case of the 52 terminated GMA-7 talents, they will have their case elevate to constructive dismissal.
“For them (GMA-7) our contract ended. Our point is it’s in the law that we are regular employees and they cannot terminate us that easily. Because of that, the case will elevate to constructive dismissal (from regularization case) for those terminated,” said Cabaluna.