Bowe Cabaluna, TAG president, sums up their one-year old struggle as “masayang mahirap” (happy but difficult).
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – This month, contractual employees, euphemistically called “talents,” of GMA-7 network marked the first year of their fight for labor rights.
More than a hundred talents formed last year the Talents Association of GMA (TAG) and filed a case against the television network for violation of labor laws before the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC). The case remains pending with the labor arbiter.
GMA-7’s talents do not receive even the mandatory benefits for all workers, such as holiday pay, night time premium, service incentive leave, right to join a union, Social Security System benefits, health insurance, overtime pay and 13th month pay.
In an interview, Bowe Cabaluna, TAG president, sums up their one-year old struggle as “masayang mahirap” (happy but difficult).
Gaining more members
Cabaluna said more talents have joined the TAG and added their names as complainants in the labor case.
He said that those who had been dismissed and found work elsewhere have never abandoned the case. Many other members are still with GMA-7 with their contracts being renewed. Cabaluna said the management could not easily replace experienced media workers with new graduates.
“I’m happy that despite the harassment we got from the management, we are able to continue,” Cabaluna said, smiling.
The harassment, Cabaluna said, is financial. During the Christmas season, talents did not receive any bonus. In the past, talents got bonuses equivalent to one-month or 1.5-month of their salary, depending on the ratings of programs where they work in.
Just last week, talents have been told that they will get their salary in bank checks. Before, talents receive their pay through the ATM. Cabaluna said the new mechanism is burdensome.
The verbal harassment by the higher-ups, he said, has softened. There were days they would hear supervisors calling them as “palamunin ng GMA” (a person being fed by GMA).
Cabaluna said they also gained more supporters.
In particular, he thanked the Altermidya, a national network of alternative media organizations, and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) for their support.
He also thanked the artists who donated their artworks for the TAG’s Labor of Love: Art Fair and Quiz Night last week. Among them are Leeroy New, Manix Abrera, Mideo Cruz and Ode Pacheco.
The TAG also expressed gratitude to Gabriela Women’s Party for filing a resolution in February seeking to investigate the labor violations of GMA-7. Cabaluna said the resolution has yet to be taken up by the House Committee on Labor and Employment.
The TAG condemned the recent dismissal of 200 journalists and media workers in regional stations. The management reasoned out that the layoffs is due to redundancy and financial losses.
Cabaluna said one of those laid off in GMA-7 Cebu, a talent, received only P9,000 (US$200) as separation pay.
“If they could do this to regional stations, what would stop them from laying off more employees here in Luzon?” Cabaluna said.
Cabaluna said media workers have to confront these assaults on their labor rights through collective action.
In a pooled editorial, Altermidya called on their colleagues not only in GMA-7 but also in other media organizations to organize themselves to fight for their survival and for the people’s right to relevant information.
“No appeal to the media moguls’ humanity or reason will work; only organization will. The time has come for the work force of every media organization to establish local unions towards forging a coalition that will eventually develop into an industry-wide national union. The history of the country’s labor movement shows us that collective action is our best weapon against oppression and exploitation. Organize, organize!” the network said.