Almirante: Project employment

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By Dominador Almirante

Labor case Digest

Friday, July 4, 2014


RESPONDENTS Carlos P. Pabriga and four others were engaged by petitioner GMA Network, Inc. to perform the following activities: 1) manning of technical operations center: (a) responsibility for airing of local commercials, and (b) logging/monitoring of national commercials (satellite); 2) acting as transmitter/VTR men: (a) prepare tapes for local airing, (b) actual airing of commercials, (c) plugging of station promo, (d) logging of transmitter reading, and (e) in case of power failure, start up generator set to resume program; 3) acting as maintenance staff: (a) checking of equipment, (b) warming up of generator, (c) filling of oil, fuel, and water in radiator, and 4) acting as cameramen.

In a complaint for illegal dismissal, the petitioner interchangeably characterized respondents’ employment as project and fixed-period/fixed-term employment. The National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), in reversing the decision of the labor arbiter, held that they are regular employees.

The Court of Appeals (CA) affirmed the decision of the NLRC. Did the CA err?

The Supreme Court (First Division) ruling: No.

In order to safeguard the rights of workers against the arbitrary use of the word “project” to prevent employees from attaining the status of regular employees, employers claiming that their workers are project employees should not only prove that the duration and scope of the employment was specified at the time they were engaged, but also that there was indeed a project. As discussed above, the project could either be (1) a particular job or undertaking that is within the regular or usual business of the employer company, but which is distinct and separate, and identifiable as such, from the other undertakings of the company; or (2) a particular job or undertaking that is not within the regular business of the corporation. As it was with regard to the distinction between a regular and casual employee, the purpose of this requirement is to delineate whether or not the employer is in constant need of the services of the specified employee. If the particular job or undertaking is within the regular or usual business of the employer company and it is not identifiably distinct or separate from the other undertakings of the company, there is clearly a constant necessity for the performance of the task in question, and therefore said job or undertaking should not be considered a project.

x x x

These jobs and undertakings are clearly within the regular or usual business of the employer company and are not identifiably distinct or separate from the other undertakings of the company. There is no denying that the manning of the operations center to air commercials, acting as transmitter/VTR men, maintaining the equipment, and acting as cameramen are not undertakings separate or distinct from the business of a broadcasting company (GMA Network, Inc. vs. Carlos P. Pabriga, et. al., G.R. No. 176419, Nov. 27, 2013).

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 05, 2014.

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