TELEVISION

Supreme Court rules against regional TV channel Telemadrid’s layoff plan

Decision will guarantee survival of public station, but sacked workers will not be rehired Regional government will have to increase compensation payouts for more than 800 people

Telemadrid workers begin their march on Wednesday morning.
Telemadrid workers begin their march on Wednesday morning.J.C. Hidalgo / efe

The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled against public regional TV station Telemadrid’s decision to lay off more than 70 percent of its staff.

Judges had two options on the table in terms of the future of the network: either to ratify last April’s decision by the Madrid regional High Court to declare the layoff plan irregular, or to declare it null and void.

It opted for the former, thus dismissing appeals that had been filed by both the company and labor unions.

The decision came as no surprise to either the Madrid regional government or the unions. It obliges regional premier Ignacio González to pay workers up to 45 days’ compensation per year worked, compared with the 20 days it has so far awarded, up to a maximum of 12 monthly salaries. The region had already made it clear that it would increase the compensation and will now have to fork out an extra €22 million on top of the €26 million it has already paid out as part of the layoff plan.

If the layoff plan had been declared void, the Madrid government would have closed the channel

Nevertheless it was the best solution for the Popular Party-run regional government. If the layoff plan had been declared void, the region would have had to close the channel, given that it would not have been willing to rehire the sacked workers. In January of last year 829 of the station’s 1,161 workers – 71.4 percent – lost their jobs, a number the company later increased to 861.

A few minutes after learning of the decision, Telemadrid announced that it would move ahead “with complying with it, opting to compensate the people affected,” once it had received the ruling.

Regional government spokesman Salvador Victoria said the decision guaranteed the viability of the network and emphasized that there would have been fewer job losses if workers had accepted the initial conditions offered by the company.

The decision was a disappointing one for the unions, which had hoped the layoff plan would be declared void. “We accept the ruling, as we cannot do anything else, but it has left us very upset, because we think that the Supreme Court has not done justice,” said the president of the station’s workers’ committee, Teresa García, after hearing the decision.

On Wednesday morning dismissed Telemadrid workers marched from the station’s headquarters outside the city in Ciudad de la Imagen, through the center, to the Supreme Court in Plaza Villa de París, where they congregated, shouting slogans such as: “Yes you can,” and: “We want to be on Telemadrid.”

The central government’s delegate in Madrid, Cristina Cifuentes, also of the PP, came in for harsh criticism from members of the regional government for allowing the demonstration outside the Supreme Court to be held.