Judge rules Telemadrid unfairly dismissed 861 workers

Regional television company will have to rehire employees or pay higher compensation

A court on Tuesday ruled that 861 employees laid off by television company Radio Televisión Madrid (RTVM), owned by the region of Madrid, had been unfairly dismissed.

Telemadrid, the brand name of the company, will now have to rehire those who were sacked under a workforce adjustment plan (ERE) or increase their severance pay, which under the ERE amounted to 20 days’ wages per year worked up to a maximum of one year’s salary.

The company will now have to compensate workers at a rate of 45 days’ salary for every year worked up to when the new labor reform took effect in February of last year and 33 days thereafter. In cases of unfair dismissal under the old legislation, the maximum is 42 months’ wages and two years under the Popular Party (PP) government’s reform.

Some 300 Telemadrid workers cheered the decision as they stood outside the building of the Madrid regional High Court. The company’s works committee would have preferred the court to have ruled the ERE null and void because this would have obliged Telemadrid to reincorporate those who had been sacked.

The Madrid regional government, controlled by the PP, has the right to appeal the lower court’s ruling with the Supreme Court. There are also hundreds of individual appeals against the ERE pending ruling.

Madrid premier Ignacio González accepted the ruling and indicated that Telemadrid would opt to increase severance pay rather than readmit the employees who had been laid off. González argued that the court had ruled that the ERE was legally “valid” as regards the basis on which the workers were dismissed.

However, the judge who drew up the ruling deemed that the region’s argument that a cut in Telemadrid’s budget justified the mass layoffs was “insufficient.”

The judge ruled that although the labor reform allowed for collective dismissals on the basis of falling revenues or losses, it was still up to the employer to demonstrate that this was a new situation. She also argued that the ERE was disproportional in that it affected workers covered by the company’s collective agreement and left high-paid management intact.

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