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Former employees sue GMA 7

By: Ador Vincent S. Mayol, Jhunnex Napallacan July 08,2015 - 09:02 AM

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Twelve former employees yesterday filed a complaint for illegal retrenchment against GMA 7 officials.

Four reporters, a desk editor, 3 cameramen, 3 video editors and a senior television crew member questioned the selection of employees to be retrenched and the computation of their separation benefits.

They also raised the issue on the “regularization of casual, contractual, and probationary employees at the time of the retrenchment.”

BACKSTORY: Former GMA-7 employees file complaint against network | GMA 7 retrenchment shades of media convergence

“We just want to know if the management had legitimate grounds to remove us. There are questions of law which we want to raise, and after contemplating about this for months, we decided to pursue a case against GMA 7,” said veteran broadcast journalist Jun Veliganio, who worked as a senior reporter of the network’s news program for 16 years, including 9 years as a regular employee.

Veliganio said they were aware that it’s going to be an uphill battle against a giant television network, but they will not back down.

“If we, who were treated unjustly, do nothing because of fear, what will happen to other laborers? We’re filing this case not just for ourselves, but for all workers,” he told Cebu Daily News.

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Named respondents in the case lodged before the National Labor Relations Commission in Central Visayas (NLRC 7) yesterday morning were Felipe Gozon, chairman and chief executive officer of

GMA Network, Inc; Ann Marie Tan, Cebu station manager; and Suzanne Salva-Alueta, program manager of GMA 7 Cebu’s news and public affairs.

Alueta said they will answer the issues raised by the complainants once they get a copy of the complaint.

“I have yet to receive a copy of the complaint but once I have it, I will appear before the appropriate forum when summoned,” she said.

As of yesterday, the case has yet to be assigned to a labor arbiter.

SCRAPPED

The network retrenched effective end-May this year about 200 personnel in regional stations in Cebu, Bacolod, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Naga (Bicol) and Ilocos. News operations in these areas were either scrapped or downsized as part of the streamlining of programs and manpower to ensure business competitiveness.

In Cebu, 18 posts were scrapped for redundancy and the morning news program Buena Mano Balita was shut down. Only the afternoon newscast of 24 Oras Central Visayas was left, with Bobby Nalzaro as remaining anchor.

Aside from Veliganio, the other retrenched employees who filed a case against the network yesterday were former reporters Greggy Magdadaro, Bexmae Jumao-as, and Mark Anthony Bautista; cameramen Joel Pantino, Ian Laroga, and Leofil Labastida; video editors Jude Montejo, Marlon Marquez, and Urestedes Gulliebon; junior desk editor Randy Gorion; and Ronald Rellin, a senior crew of the Satellite Remote Operation.

They went to the NLRC on Osmeña Boulevard at past 9 a.m. yesterday to fill up complaint forms. They didn’t submit any sworn affidavit, but said at least five lawyers have vowed to assist them once the inquiry begins.

They were accompanied by Casmero Mahilum, legal aid officer of the Visayan Human Development Agency, a non-governmental organization focusing on the plight of laborers in the region.

Lawyer Rosemarie Versoza, who was a former co-anchor of 24 Oras Central Visayas, was seen at the NLRC office at the same time that the complainants filed the case.

She briefly chatted with her former colleagues but left, saying she had another case to attend to at the NLRC. Versoza, who was engaged as a talent, was among those let go.

RELATED STORIES: GMA 7 job cuts ‘not related to Ang talks’ | GMA retrenches 200 staff to ‘streamline’ reg’l stations

QUESTIONS

The affected employees and talents were informed about their retrenchment last April 24, which they describe as “Bloody Friday.”

Veliganio, who has been with the company since 1999, was given regular status only in 2006. His separation pay of about P300,000 was allegedly computed based only on his 9 years as a regular employee.

“Ingon ang among abogado, apilon gyud unta ug kwenta ang mga tuig nga talent pa mi (Our lawyer said our years as talent should also be counted),” he said.

“I wonder why some of us received different amounts of money when we served the company for the same number of years,” he added.

He said there was no sufficient explanation from the management of GMA 7 on why they were retrenched.

“Giunsa man nila pagpili ang gi-retrench nga ako dugay na man ko nagtrabaho (How did they select the employees to be retrenched? I have worked for the company for a long time),” he said.

He said the management claimed there was redundancy in job functions and responsibilities.

“But why was I, a senior reporter, included when there are those young employees who were retained?” he said.

“If they based it on our performance, we passed the evaluation. And even if we failed, the first penalty should have been a warning or that we undergo training, not retrenchment,” he added.

Veliganio has been hired by radio DYRC as a news reporter and anchor. But other retrenched employees have yet to find new jobs.

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