THE Court of Appeals (CA) said 51 talents of GMA Network, Inc. are entitled to reinstatement and are found to be regular employees.

In a decision on Feb. 19, the courts’ 15th division said the talents are entitled to reinstatement without loss of seniority rights, full backwages inclusive of allowance, and all benefits for regular employees of GMA.

The covered period is from the time the talents’ compensation was withheld until their resinstatement. Records of the case were remanded to labor arbiter National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) for proper computation.

The court said that the talent agreements of the petitioners “clearly show that they are regular employees of GMA and not independent contractors.”

It also said that the network failed to proved that they hired the petitioners because of “peculiar skill, talent, or celebrity that no other ordinary employees possesses.”

“Therefore, it can be inferred that petitioners had all the necessary and basic requirements in the position they applied for, but no unique or peculiar skill, talent, or celebrity status that would separate him or her from the rest of the employees,” it said.

The court ruled that a provision in the agreement provided that the network has the “exclusive and irrevocable” option to renew the contract.

The network’s control and supervision over the works of petitioners showed that they should comply with GMA’s demands.

“Verily, the terms and conditions of petitioners’ Talent Agreements and General Terms show that they are not independent contractors and are regular employees of GMA,” it said.

It also said that the 15 who picketed or protested are not guilty of gross and habitual neglect of duty under the Labor Code as no other instances were presented aside from the days they did not report to work.

The employees who were not renewed are considered regular employees and since their talent agreements promote employee-employer relationship, the non-renewal of their agreement “constituted constructive and/or illegal dismissal on the part of GMA.”

It also said that GMA failed to present proof that other petitioners resigned or refused to accept reinstatement as ordered by the labor arbiter.

Others whom the network claimed were not offered contract renewal due to program changes were likewise illegally dismissed due to GMA’s failure to present any documentary evidence.

Two other petitions were denied.

The petitioners are appealing the 2017 decision and resolution of the NLRC dismissing the complaint for illegal dismissal filed by 35 complainants and directing GMA to return them to their former positions without payment of backwages/fees.

Before this, the labor arbiter in a decision in December 2016 declared the termination of 35 complainants as illegal and ordered the payment of backwages up to their actual reinstatement without loss of seniority rights and other privileges.

The arbiter also ruled then that the termination of 16 other complainants were valid and legal while the two other complaints were dismissed for lack of merit.

Last month, the media company asked the Supreme Court to reverse the appellate’s court separate decision ruling that more than 90 of its talents are regular employees. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas