Ex-DepEd TV workers mull legal action vs production firm due to delayed salaries

Jaehwa Bernardo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 04 2021 04:32 PM | Updated as of Mar 05 2021 12:43 PM

Ex-DepEd TV workers mull legal action vs production firm due to delayed salaries 1
Children watching a test broadcast of DepEd TV, where government airs educational programming as part of its distance learning plan in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — A group of workers that produced episodes for the Department of Education’s TV-based mode of instruction is considering taking legal action against the firm that hired them for the project due to long-delayed salaries.

“They are seriously considering lahat ng legal remedies na puwedeng magamit or ma-apply ng production workers natin na affected para makasingil at mabayaran na sila,” lawyer Henrie Enaje, who represents the group of creatives that was contracted by Ei2 Tech Inc. for the production of DepEd TV episodes, said in a recent press conference.

(They are seriously considering all legal remedies so the production workers get their salaries.)

Enaje could not give a timeline as to when legal action would be taken as the workers want to resolve the matter out of court as much as possible.

“Hindi pa nafa-finalize kung kailan ifa-file itong legal remedies but of course, [the] soonest possible time na puwedeng gawin kapag decided na itong production workers to file any legal recourse,” he said.

(We haven’t finalized when we’ll file [and seek] legal remedies but of course, we’ll file it the soonest possible time once the production workers have decided to file legal recourse.)

Enaje estimated that around 400 workers under Ei2 Tech—whose chief executive officer is television host Paolo Bediones—have either not received their salaries or gotten incomplete payments.

Last year, the DepEd tapped Bediones’ Ei2 Tech Inc. to produce TV episodes for its distance education program.

In December, several workers under the firm complained to ABS-CBN News about their delayed compensation.

Education Undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla earlier clarified the DepEd could not pay DepEd TV workers under Ei2Tech because they are not directly employed by the government agency.

Bernadette Neri, who was previously an executive producer (EP) for DepEd TV, said she only received salary for one cutoff date since she started working for Ei2Tech in October 2020.

Erri Rojo, also a former EP, said the company had promised to pay their salaries in the middle of December but only a few workers were compensated and they were not paid in full.

“Noong December 18 saka pa lang may mga papatak-patak na sumusuweldo. Hindi siya buo kasi ang pangako nila sa amin, susuweldo kami nang buo,” she said.

(Come December 18, that’s when we started receiving salaries. But we weren’t paid in full. They promised we’d be paid in full.)

George Gamayo lamented how overworked he and his colleagues were, saying they were made to take on tasks that were not even mentioned in their contract.

“Habang tumatagal, dumarami na iyong binibigay na trabaho sa bawat isa sa’ming executive producer,” he said.

(As time went by, we executive producers were given more tasks.)

“Pag-render ng iba't ibang formats, pag-train ng teachers paano magsulat ng scripts, paggawa ng Christmas station ID, pagsulat at pag-revise ng scripts, at paghingi ng video greetings sa TV personalities,” he added.

(Rendering TV lessons in different formats, training teachers on scriptwriting, producing Christmas station IDs, writing and revising scripts, and asking for video greetings from TV personalities.)

The former EPs said they were removed from Ei2Tech without prior notice in late December after writing a letter to Bediones to ask for an explanation about their delayed salaries.

“Nabalitaan na lang namin sa aming teacher-broadcaster na wala na pala kami sa second quarter,” said Gamayo, referring to the teachers who deliver the video lessons aired on DepEd TV.

(We learned from our teacher-broadcasters that we would no longer produce episodes for the second quarter.)

“Walang announcement na ibinigay sa GC (group chat). Wala rin ipinatawag na meeting,” Gamayo said.

(They didn’t announce it in our group chat or call for a meeting.)

Enaje said the DepEd should have “moral responsibility” as he appealed to the agency to look into the issues that the creatives are facing.

“Bagama’t contractually, legally, hindi kayo hinahabol ng production workers na ito… please tingnan niyo naman po, look into these issues po. Tingnan po natin kung ano ang magagawa ng inyong ahensiya,” he said.

(Although contractually, legally, you’re not the one that the production workers are going after… please look into these issues. Look at what your agency can do for these workers.)

ABS-CBN News has reached out to Bediones for comment but has yet to receive a response as of this posting.

ABS-CBN News also asked Education Undersecretary Alain Pascua, who heads DepEd TV, for a comment but the official sent the same statement he gave to reporters last December. He did not respond to further questions.

The education department launched DepEd TV to support TV-based instruction, one of the components of distance learning, which was implemented after the government banned in-person classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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