Community or Mutuality of Interests (Collective Bargaining)

When first confronted with the task of determining the proper collective bargaining unit in a particular controversy, the Court had perforce to rely on American jurisprudence. In Democratic Labor Association vs. Cebu Stevedoring Company, Inc., decided on February 28, 1958, the Court observed that "the issue of how to determine the proper collective bargaining unit and what unit would be appropriate to be the collective bargaining agency" . . . "is novel in this jurisdiction; however, American precedents on the matter abound . . (to which resort may be had) considering that our present Magna Carta has been patterned after the American law on the subject." Said the Court:

. . . Under these precedents, there are various factors which must be satisfied and considered in determining the proper constituency of a bargaining unit. No one particular factor is itself decisive of the determination. The weight accorded to any particular factor varies in accordance with the particular question or questions that may arise in a given case. What are these factors? Rothenberg mentions a good number, but the most pertinent to our case are: (1) will of the employees (Globe Doctrine); (2) affinity and unit of employees' interest, such as substantial similarity of work and duties, or similarity of compensation and working conditions; (3) prior collective bargaining history; and (4) employment status, such as temporary, seasonal probationary employees. . . .

An enlightening appraisal of the problem of defining an appropriate bargaining unit is given in the 10th Annual Report of the National Labor Relations Board wherein it is emphasized that the factors which said board may consider and weigh in fixing appropriate units are: the history, extent and type of organization of employees; the history of their collective bargaining; the history, extent and type of organization of employees in other plants of the same employer, or other employers in the same industry; the skill, wages, work, and working conditions of the employees; the desires of the employees; the eligibility of the employees for membership in the union or unions involved; and the relationship between the unit or units proposed and the employer's organization, management, and operation. . . .

. . . In said report, it is likewise emphasized that the basic test in determining the appropriate bargaining unit is that a unit, to be appropriate, must affect a grouping of employees who have substantial, mutual interests in wages, hours, working conditions and other subjects of collective bargaining (citing Smith on Labor Laws, 316-317; Francisco, Labor Laws, 162). . . .

The Court further explained that "(t)he test of the grouping is community or mutuality of interests. And this is so because 'the basic test of an asserted bargaining unit's acceptability is whether or not it is fundamentally the combination which will best assure to all employees the exercise of their collective bargaining rights' (Rothenberg on Labor Relations, 490)." Hence, in that case, the Court upheld the trial court's conclusion that two separate bargaining units should be formed, one consisting of regular and permanent employees and another consisting of casual laborers or stevedores.

Since then, the "community or mutuality of interests" test has provided the standard in determining the proper constituency of a collective bargaining unit. In Alhambra Cigar & Cigarette Manufacturing Company, et al. vs. Alhambra Employees' Association (PAFLU), 107 Phil. 23, the Court, noting that the employees in the administrative, sales and dispensary departments of a cigar and cigarette manufacturing firm perform work which have nothing to do with production and maintenance, unlike those in the raw lead (malalasi), cigar, cigarette, packing (precintera) and engineering and garage departments, authorized the formation of the former set of employees into a separate collective bargaining unit. The ruling in the Democratic Labor Association case, supra, was reiterated in Philippine Land-Air-Sea Labor Unit vs. Court of Industrial Relations, 110 Phil. 176, where casual employees were barred from joining the union of the permanent and regular employees. Applying the same "community or mutuality of interests" test, but resulting in the formation of only one collective bargaining units is the case of National Association of Free Trade Unions vs. Mainit Lumber Development Company Workers Union-United Lumber and General Workers of the Phils., G.R. No. 79526, December 21, 1990, 192 SCRA 598. In said case, the Court ordered the formation of a single bargaining unit consisting of the Sawmill Division in Butuan City and the Logging Division in Zapanta Valley, Kitcharao, Agusan Norte of the Mainit Lumber Development Company. The Court reasoned:

Certainly, there is a mutuality of interest among the employees of the Sawmill Division and the Logging Division. Their functions mesh with one another. One group needs the other in the same way that the company needs them both. There may be difference as to the nature of their individual assignments but the distinctions are not enough to warrant the formation of a separate bargaining unit. (UP v. Ferrer-Calleja; G.R. No. 96189)

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