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, among others. They maintain that as camera operators, they performed functions that were necessary and desirable to GMA’s usual business as a television and broadcasting company. They emphasized that their employment was continuous despite the end of shooting and recording for its television program in which they were assigned.
Upon the other hand, GMA maintains that petitioners cannot be deemed regular employees since they failed to comply with the one-year service required by law. It argues that petitioners were “pinch-hitters or relievers” engaged to augment its regular crew whenever there is a need for substitute or additional workers.
Does GMA’s defense find merit?
From the plain language of the second paragraph of Article 295 of the Labor Code, it is clear that the requirement of rendering “at least one year of service,” before an employee is deemed to have attained regular status, only applies to casual employees. An employee is regarded as a casual employee if he or she was engaged to perform functions which are not necessary and desirable to the usual business and trade of the employer. Thus, when one is engaged to perform functions which are necessary and desirable to the usual business and trade of the employer, engagement for a year-long duration is not a controlling consideration.
GMA’s claim that petitioners were required to render at least one year of service before they may be considered regular employees finds no basis in law. Petitioners were never casual employees precisely because they performed functions that were necessary and desirable to the usual business of GMA. They did not need to render a year’s worth of service to be considered regular employees.
Of course, that petitioners performed functions which were necessary and desirable to GMA’s usual trade business could nevertheless mean that they were project employees whose engagements were fundamentally time bound. This Court finds that they were not.
In this case, “GMA repeatedly engaged petitioners as camera operators for its television programs. As camera operators, petitioners performed activities which are: (1) within the regular and usual business of GMA; and (2) not identifiably distinct or separate from the other undertakings of GMA. It would be absurd to consider the nature of their work of operating cameras as distinct or separate from the business of GMA, a broadcasting company that produces, records and airs television programs. From this alone, the petitioners cannot be considered project employees for there is no distinctive “project” to even speak of.
Neither should GMA’s assertion that petitioners were merely engaged as pinch-hitters or substitutes, whose employment is for a specific
duration or period, prevent them from being regular employees.
GMA is primarily engaged in the business of broadcasting, which encompasses the production of television programs. Following the nature of its business, GMA is naturally and logically expected to engage the service of camera operators such as petitioners, in case it ceases business by failing to shoot and record any television program. (Henry T. Paragele, et al. vs. GMA Network Inc., G.R. 235315, July 13, 2020).