Santuyo v. Remerco (G.R. No. 174420; March 22, 2010)


CASE DIGEST: MIGUELA SANTUYO, CORAZON ZACARIAS, EUGENIA CINCO, ELIZABETH PERALES, SUSANA BELEDIANO, RUFINA TABINAS, LETICIA L. DELA ROSA, NENITA LINESES, EDITHA DELA RAMA, MARIBEL M. OLIVAR, LOEVEL MALAPAD, FLORENDA M. GONZALO, ELEANOR O. BUEN, EULALIA ABAGAO, LORECA MOCORRO, DIANA MAGDUA, LUZ RAGAY, LYDIA MONTE, CORNELIA BALTAZAR and DAISY MANGANTE, Petitioners, v. REMERCO GARMENTS MANUFACTURING, INC. and/or VICTORIA REYES. Respondents.

FACTS: 
KMM Kilusan (union) staged a strike against respondent Remerco Garments Manufacturing, Inc. (RGMI). Because the strike was subsequently declared illegal, all union officers were dismissed. Employees who wanted to sever their employment were paid separation pay while those who wanted to resume work were recalled on the condition that they would no longer be paid a daily rate but on a piece-rate basis. Without allowing RGMI to normalize its operations, the union filed a notice of strike. While the union and RGMI were undergoing conciliation in the NCMB, RGMI transferred its factory site, where the union went on strike.

Labor secretary assumed jurisdiction and issued a return to work order. RGMI, on the other hand, insisted that its employees refused to obey the November 21, 1995 order. Thus, it prayed that the strike be declared illegal and that all union officers and those employees who refused to return to work be declared to have abandoned their employment.

While the conciliation proceedings between the union and respondent were pending, petitioners filed a complaint for illegal dismissal against RGMI and respondent Victoria Reyes, accusing the latter of harassment. Respondents, on the other hand, moved to dismiss the complaint in view of the pending conciliation proceedings (which involved the same issue) in the NCMB. Moreover, alleged violations of the CBA should be resolved according to the grievance procedure laid out therein. Thus, the labor arbiter had no jurisdiction over the complaint.

The LA ruled in favor of petitioners. On appeal, the NLRC affirmed the LA Decision. Aggrieved, respondents filed a petition for certiorari in the Court of Appeals (CA) claiming that the NLRC acted with grave abuse of discretion in affirming the decision of the labor arbiter. They argued that since the complaint involved the implementation of the CBA, the labor arbiter had no jurisdiction over it. The CA reversed the NLRC decision. Upon denial of their motion for reconsideration, petitioners filed the present petition.

ISSUE:

Does the LA have jurisdiction?
HELD: The controversy was not a simple case of illegal dismissal but a labor dispute involving the manner of ascertaining employees salaries, a matter which was governed by the existing CBA.

Petitioners clearly and consistently questioned the legality of RGMIs adoption of the new salary scheme (i.e., piece-rate basis), asserting that such action, among others, violated the existing CBA.

Pursuant to Articles 217 in relation to Articles 260 and 261 of the Labor Code, the labor arbiter should have referred the matter to the grievance machinery provided in the CBA. Because the labor arbiter clearly did not have jurisdiction over the subject matter, his decision was void.

Nonetheless, the Secretary of the Labor assumed jurisdiction over the labor dispute between the union and RGMI and resolved the same in his September 18, 1996 order. Article 263(g) of the Labor Code gives the Secretary of Labor discretion to assume jurisdiction over a labor dispute likely to cause a strike or a lockout in an industry indispensable to the national interest and to decide the controversy or to refer the same to the NLRC for compulsory arbitration. In doing so, the Secretary of Labor shall resolve all questions and controversies in order to settle the dispute. His power is therefore plenary and discretionary in nature to enable him to effectively and efficiently dispose of the issue.

The Secretary of Labor assumed jurisdiction over the controversy because RGMI had a substantial number of employees and was a major exporter of garments to the United States and Canada. In view of these considerations, the Secretary of Labor resolved the labor dispute between the union and RGMI in his September 18, 1996 order. Since neither the union nor RGMI appealed the said order, it became final and executory.

DENIED

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