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GMA NETWORK, INC., vs. CARLOS P. PABRIGA, GEOFFREY F.

ARIAS, ISSUE
KIRBY N. CAMPO, ARNOLD L. LAGAHIT, and ARMANDO A. CATUBIG, Whether or not the CA erred in finding respondents as regular employees - NO
G.R. No. 176419 | NOV 13, 2013 | LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.
RATIO
FACTS The principal test for determining whether particular employees are properly
On July 19 1999, due to miserable working conditions private respondents filed a characterized as "project employees" as distinguished from "regular employees," is
complaint against GMA Network, Inc. before the NLRC RAB VII Cebu City assailing whether or not the "project employees" were assigned to carry out a "specific project
their respective employment circumstances as television technicians. respondents or undertaking," the duration and scope of which were specified at the time the
were assigned to the following tasks: employees were engaged for that project.
1) Manning of Technical Operations Center: The project could either be:
(a) Responsible for the airing of local commercials; and 1) A particular job or undertaking that is within the regular or usual business of the
(b) Logging/monitoring of national commercials (satellite) employer company, but which is distinct and separate, and identifiable as such,
2) Acting as Transmitter/VTR men: from the other undertakings of the company; or
(a) Prepare tapes for local airing;
2) A particular job or undertaking that is not within the regular business of the
(b) Actual airing of commercials;
corporation. As it was with regard to the distinction between a regular and casual
(c) Plugging of station promo;
(d) Logging of transmitter reading; and employee, the purpose of this requirement is to delineate whether or not the
(e) In case of power failure, start up generator set to resume program; employer is in constant need of the services of the specified employee. If the
3) Acting as Maintenance staff; particular job or undertaking is within the regular or usual business of the
(a) Checking of equipment; employer company and it is not identifiably distinct or separate from the other
(b) Warming up of generator; undertakings of the company, there is clearly a constant necessity for the
(c) Filling of oil, fuel, and water in radiator; and performance of the task in question, and therefore said job or undertaking should
4) Acting as Cameramen
not be considered a project.
GMA received a notice of hearing of the complaint and confronted the private
The jobs and undertakings of the respondents as mentioned are clearly within the
respondents. They were made to explain why they filed the complaint. The next day,
regular or usual business of the employer company and are not identifiably distinct
private respondents were barred from entering and reporting for work without any
or separate from the other undertakings of the company.
notice stating the reasons therefor.
Petitioners allegation that respondents were merely substitutes does not change the
Private respondents, through counsel, wrote a letter requesting that they be recalled
fact that their jobs cannot be considered projects within the purview of the law. Every
back to work. GMAs response admitted the non-payment of benefits but did not
industry, even public offices, has to deal with securing substitutes for employees who
mention the request of private respondents to be allowed to work. Another letter was
are absent or on leave. Such tasks, whether performed by the usual employee or by
sent by private respondents but was ignored.
a substitute, cannot be considered separate and distinct from the other undertakings
Private respondents then filed an amended complaint raising the following additional of the company.
issues: 1) Unfair Labor Practice; 2) Illegal dismissal; and 3) Damages and Attorneys
The failure of an employer to report to the nearest Public Employment Office the
fees.
termination of its workers services every time a project or a phase thereof is
A mandatory conference was held to amicably settle the dispute between the parties completed indicates that said workers are not project employees. Nowhere in the
but proved to be futile. Both parties filed their respective position papers thereafter. records is there any showing that petitioner reported the completion of its projects
Respondents claim that they are regular employees of petitioner GMA Network, Inc. and the dismissal of private respondents in its finished projects to the nearest Public
The latter, on the other hand, interchangeably characterize respondents Employment Office as per Policy Instruction No. 20 of the DOLE.
employment as project and fixed period/fixed term employment. GMA alleges that A project employee may also attain the status of a regular employee if there is a
respondents were merely substitutes or what they call pinch-hitters, which means continuous rehiring of project employees after the stoppage of a project; and the
that they were employed to take the place of regular employees of petitioner who activities performed are usual and customary to the business or trade of the
were absent or on leave. employer. A project employee or a member of a work pool may acquire the status of
The LA dismissed the complaint of the respondents but nonetheless held GMA liable a regular employee when the following concur:
for 13th month pay. The NLRC reversed the LAs Decision and held that all 1) There is a continuous rehiring of project employees even after cessation of a
complainants were regular employees with respect to the particular activity to which project; and
they were assigned. The CA likewise denied GMAs petition.
2) The tasks performed by the alleged project employee are vital, necessary and
indispensable to the usual business or trade of the employer.
GMA interchangeably characterizes respondents service as project and fixed term
employment. These types of employment, however, are not the same. Project
employment requires a project as restrictively defined above, the duration of a fixed-
term employment agreed upon by the parties may be any day certain, which is
understood to be "that which must necessarily come although it may not be known
when."
The decisive determinant in fixed-term employment is not the activity that the
employee is called upon to perform but the day certain agreed upon by the
parties for the commencement and termination of the employment relationship.
Criteria under which "term employment" cannot be said to be in circumvention of the
law on security of tenure:
1) The fixed period of employment was knowingly and voluntarily agreed upon
by the parties without any force, duress, or improper pressure being brought
to bear upon the employee and absent any other circumstances vitiating his
consent; or
2) It satisfactorily appears that the employer and the employee dealt with each
other on more or less equal terms with no moral dominance exercised by the
former or the latter.
It unjustifiable to allow GMA to hire and rehire workers on fixed terms, ad infinitum,
depending upon its needs, never attaining regular employment status. Respondents
were repeatedly rehired in several fixed term contracts from 1996 to 1999. To prove
the alleged contracts, petitioner presented cash disbursement vouchers signed by
respondents, stating that they were merely hired as pinch-hitters. Respondents were
in no position to refuse to sign these vouchers, as such refusal would entail not
getting paid for their services.

RULING
CA decision is affirmed.