PSTMSDWO v. PNCC (G.R. No. 171231; February 17, 2010)


FACTS: Petitioner PNCC Skyway Corporation Traffic Management and Security Division Workers' Organization (PSTMSDWO) is a labor union duly registered with the DOLE. Respondent PNCC Skyway Corporation is a corporation duly organized and operating under and by virtue of the laws of the Philippines.

On November 15, 2002, petitioner and respondent entered into a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) incorporating the terms and conditions of their agreement which included vacation leave and expenses for security license provisions.

Article VIII, Section 1 (b) of the CBA, the pertinent provisions of the CBA relative to vacation leave and sick leave that the company shall schedule the vacation leave of employees during the year taking into consideration the request of preference of the employees. Any unused vacation leave shall be converted to cash and shall be paid to the employees on the first week of December each year."

Petitioner objected to the implementation of the said memorandum. It insisted that the individual members of the union have the right to schedule their vacation leave. It opined that the unilateral scheduling of the employees' vacation leave was done to avoid the monetization of their vacation leave in December 2004.

Petitioner also demanded that the expenses for the required in-service training of its member security guards, as a requirement for the renewal of their license, be shouldered by the respondent. However, the respondent did not accede to petitioner's demands and stood firm on its decision to schedule all the vacation leave of petitioner's members.

Due to the disagreement between the parties, petitioner elevated the matter to the DOLE-NCMB for preventive mediation. For failure to settle the issue amicably, the parties agreed to submit the issue before the voluntary arbitrator.

Respondent filed a motion for reconsideration, which the voluntary arbitrator denied. Aggrieved, respondent filed a Petition for Certiorari with Prayer for Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction with the CA, and the CA annulled and setting aside the decision and order of the voluntary arbitrator. The CA ruled that since the provisions of the CBA were clear, the voluntary arbitrator has no authority to interpret the same beyond what was expressly written.

Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration, which the CA denied Hence, the instant petition assigning the following errors:

ISSUE: Did the Court of Appeals err in holding that the management has sole discretion to schedule the vacation leave of the petitioner?

HELD: The rule is that where the language of a contract is plain and unambiguous, its meaning should be determined without reference to extrinsic facts or aids. The intention of the parties must be gathered from that language, and from that language alone. Stated differently, where the language of a written contract is clear and unambiguous, the contract must be taken to mean that which, on its face, it purports to mean, unless some good reason can be assigned to show that the words used should be understood in a different sense.>In the case at bar, the contested provision of the CBA is clear and unequivocal. Article VIII, Section 1 (b) of the CBA categorically provides that the scheduling of vacation leave shall be under the option of the employer. The preference requested by the employees is not controlling because respondent retains its power and prerogative to consider or to ignore said request.

Thus, if the terms of a CBA are clear and leave no doubt upon the intention of the contracting parties, the literal meaning of its stipulation shall prevail. RFM Corporation-Flour Division and SFI Feeds Division v. Kasapian ng Manggagawang Pinagkaisa-RFM (KAMPI-NAFLU-KMU) and Sandigan at Ugnayan ng Manggagawang Pinagkaisa-SFI (SUMAPI-NAFLU-KMU)G.R. No. 162324, February 4, 2009.In fine, the CBA must be strictly adhered to and respected if its ends have to be achieved, being the law between the parties. The parties cannot be allowed to change the terms they agreed upon on the ground that the same are not favorable to them.

There is, thus, no basis for the Voluntary Arbitrator to interpret the subject provision relating to the schedule of vacation leaves as being subject to the discretion of the union members. There is simply nothing in the CBA which grants the union members this right.

It must be noted the grant to management of the right to schedule vacation leaves is not without good reason. Indeed, if union members were given the unilateral discretion to schedule their vacation leaves, the same may result in significantly crippling the number of key employees of the petitioner manning the toll ways on holidays and other peak seasons, where union members may wittingly or unwittingly choose to have a vacation. Put another way, the grant to management of the right to schedule vacation leaves ensures that there would always be enough people manning and servicing the toll ways, which in turn assures the public plying the same orderly and efficient toll way service.

Indeed, the multitude or scarcity of personnel manning the tollways should not rest upon the option of the employees, as the public using the skyway system should be assured of its safety, security and convenience.

Although the preferred vacation leave schedule of petitioner's members should be given priority, they cannot demand, as a matter of right, that their request be automatically granted by the respondent. If the petitioners were given the exclusive right to schedule their vacation leave then said right should have been incorporated in the CBA. In the absence of such right and in view of the mandatory provision in the CBA giving respondent the right to schedule the vacation leave of its employees, compliance therewith is mandated by law.

In the grant of vacation leave privileges to an employee, the employer is given the leeway to impose conditions on the entitlement to and commutation of the same, as the grant of vacation leave is not a standard of law, but a prerogative of management.Sobrepe, Jr. v. Court of Appeals, 345 Phil. 714. It is a mere concession or act of grace of the employer and not a matter of right on the part of the employee. Thus, it is well within the power and authority of an employer to impose certain conditions, as it deems fit, on the grant of vacation leaves, such as having the option to schedule the same.