San Miguel v. San Mig Supervisors (G.R. No. 146206; August 1, 2011)


In G.R. No. 110399, entitled San Miguel Corporation Supervisors and Exempt Union v. Laguesma, the Court held that even if they handle confidential data regarding technical and internal business operations, supervisory employees 3 and 4 and the exempt employees of petitioner San Miguel Foods, Inc. (SMFI) are not to be considered confidential employees, because the same do not pertain to labor relations, particularly, negotiation and settlement of grievances. Consequently, they were allowed to form an appropriate bargaining unit for the purpose of collective bargaining. The Court also declared that the employees belonging to the three different plants of San Miguel Corporation Magnolia Poultry Products Plants in Cabuyao, San Fernando, and Otis, having "community or mutuality of interests," constitute a single bargaining unit.

Pursuant thereto, a certification election was conducted on September 30, 1998. On the date of the election, petitioner filed the Omnibus Objections and Challenge to Voters, questioning the eligibility to vote by some of its employees on the grounds that certain employees should not be allowed to vote as they are:

[1] Confidential employees; 
[2] Employees assigned to the live chicken operations, which are not covered by the bargaining unit; 
[3] Employees whose job grade is level 4, but are performing managerial work and scheduled to be promoted; 
[4] Employees who belong to the Barrio Ugong plant; 
[5] Non-SMFI employees; and 
[6] Employees who are members of other unions.

Respondent averred that (1) the bargaining unit contemplated in the original petition is the Poultry Division of San Miguel Corporation, now known as San Miguel Foods, Inc.; (2) it covered the operations in Calamba, Laguna, Cavite, and Batangas and its home base is either in Cabuyao, Laguna or San Fernando, Pampanga; and (3) it submitted individual and separate declarations of the employees whose votes were challenged in the election.

Based on the results of the votes, the Med-Arbiter issued the Orderstating that since the "Yes" vote received 97% of the valid votes cast, respondent is certified to be the exclusive bargaining agent of the supervisors and exempt employees of petitioner's Magnolia Poultry Products Plants in Cabuyao, San Fernando, and Otis.

On appeal, the then Acting DOLE Undersecretary affirmed the Order dated April 13, 1999, with modification that four (4) voters be excluded from the bargaining unit which respondent seeks to represent. She opined that the challenged voters should be excluded from the bargaining unit, because two (2) are members of Magnolia Poultry Processing Plants Monthly Employees Union, while the other two (2) are employees of San Miguel Corporation, which is a separate and distinct entity from petitioner.

The Court of Appeals affirmed with modification the Resolution of the DOLE Undersecretary, stating that those holding the positions of Human Resource Assistant and Personnel Assistant are excluded from the bargaining unit.

ISSUE: Did the CA err in expanding the scope of the bargaining unit so as to include employees who do not belong to or who are not based in its Cabuyao or San Fernando plants?

HELD: Petitioner's contentions are erroneous. In G.R. No. 110399, the Court explained that the employees of San Miguel Corporation Magnolia Poultry Products Plants of Cabuyao, San Fernando, and Otis constitute a single bargaining unit, which is not contrary to the one-company, one-union policy. An appropriate bargaining unit is defined as a group of employees of a given employer, comprised of all or less than all of the entire body of employees, which the collective interest of all the employees, consistent with equity to the employer, indicates to be best suited to serve the reciprocal rights and duties of the parties under the collective bargaining provisions of the law.The test of grouping is community or mutuality of interest. This is so because the basic test of an asserted bargaining unit acceptability is whether or not it is fundamentally the combination which will best assure to all employees the exercise of their collective bargaining rights. Certainly, there is a mutuality of interest among the employees, their functions mesh with one another. One group needs the other in the same way that the company needs them both. There may be differences as to the nature of their individual assignments, but the distinctions are not enough to warrant the formation of a separate bargaining unit.

Thus, the Court affirms the finding of the CA that there should be only one bargaining unit for the employees in Cabuyao, San Fernando, and Otisof Magnolia Poultry Products Plant involved in "dressed" chicken processing and Magnolia Poultry Farms engaged in "live" chicken operations. Certain factors, such as specific line of work, working conditions, location of work, mode of compensation, and other relevant conditions do not affect or impede their commonality of interest. Although they seem separate and distinct from each other, the specific tasks of each division are actually interrelated and there exists mutuality of interests which warrants the formation of a single bargaining unit.

Although Article 245 of the Labor Code limits the ineligibility to join, form and assist any labor organization to managerial employees, jurisprudence has extended this prohibition to confidential employees or those who by reason of their positions or nature of work are required to assist or act in a fiduciary manner to managerial employees and, hence, are likewise privy to sensitive and highly confidential records.Confidential employees are thus excluded from the rank-and-file bargaining unit. A confidential employee is one entrusted with confidence on delicate, or with the custody, handling or care and protection of the employer property.Confidential employees, such as accounting personnel, should be excluded from the bargaining unit, as their access to confidential information may become the source of undue advantage. The rationale for their separate category and disqualification to join any labor organization is similar to the inhibition for managerial employees, because if allowed to be affiliated with a union, the latter might not be assured of their loyalty in view of evident conflict of interests and the union can also become company-denominated with the presence of managerial employees in the union membership. Having access to confidential information, confidential employees may also become the source of undue advantage. Said employees may act as a spy or spies of either party to a collective bargaining agreement.

In this regard, the CA correctly ruled that the positions of Human Resource Assistant and Personnel Assistant belong to the category of confidential employees and, hence, are excluded from the bargaining unit, considering their respective positions and job descriptions. As Human Resource Assistant,the scope of one work necessarily involves labor relations, recruitment and selection of employees, access to employees' personal files and compensation package, and human resource management. As regards a Personnel Assistant,one's work includes the recording of minutes for management during collective bargaining negotiations, assistance to management during grievance meetings and administrative investigations, and securing legal advice for labor issues from the petitioner team of lawyers, and implementation of company programs. Therefore, in the discharge of their functions, both gain access to vital labor relations information which outrightly disqualifies them from union membership. DENIED.