Petitioners Henry T. Paragele and 29 others were employed as cameramen and assistant cameramen by respondent GMA Network Inc. They filed a consolidated complaint against respondent GMA for regularization, which was subsequently converted into one for illegal dismissal and money claims.
With respect to the element of control, petitioners allege that their work schedules were provided by GMA and they were required to stay in their work sites before and after every taping. GMA likewise provided the equipment they used for tapings such as cameras, lighting and audio equipment. It also assigned supervisors to monitor their work and ensure their compliance with company standards. They were likewise obliged to follow company rules and regulations.
Upon the other hand, GMA maintains that petitioners were “pinch-hitters or relievers” engaged to augment its regular crew whenever there is a need for substitute or additional workers. It belies the contention that it exercised control over them. It only monitored the performance of their work to ensure that the “end result” is compliant with company standards.
Is there merit to GMA’s defense?
An independent contractor “enjoys independence and freedom from the control and supervision of his principal” as opposed to an employee who is “subject to the employer’s power to control the means and methods by which the employee’s work is to be performed and accomplished.”
Evidently, the relationship between GMA and petitioners is bilateral since petitioners themselves performed work for GMA. Therefore, in order to be considered independent contractors and not employees of GMA, it must be shown that petitioners were hired because of their “unique skills and talents” and that GMA did not exercise control over the means and methods of their work.
Here, petitioners were hired by GMA as camera operators. There is no showing at all that they were hired because of their “unique skills, talent and celebrity status not possessed by ordinary employees.”
They were paid a meager salary ranging from P750 to P1,500 per taping. Though wages are not a “conclusive factor in determining whether one is an employee or an independent contractor,” it “may indicate whether one is an independent contractor.” In this case, the sheer modesty of the remuneration rendered to petitioners undermines the assertion that there was something particularly unique about their status, talents or skills.
More importantly, petitioners were subject to GMA’s control and supervision. Moreover: (1) Their recordings and shoots were never left to their own discretion and craft; (2) They were required to follow the work schedules which GMA provided to them; (3) They were not allowed to leave the work site during tapings, which often lasted for days; (4) They were also required to follow company rules like any other employee.
GMA provided the equipment they used during tapings. GMA also assigned supervisors to monitor their performance and guarantee their compliance with company protocols and standards.
Having satisfied the element of control in determining the existence of an employer-employee relationship, the next matter for resolution is whether petitioners were regular employees of GMA. (Henry T. Paragele, et al. vs. GMA Network Inc., G.R. 235315, July 13, 2020).