The Freedom Period in Labor Relations

The last 60 days in a collective bargaining agreement is referred to as the "freedom period" when rival union representation can be entertained during the existence of a valid CBA. It is during this particular period when the majority status of the incumbent bargaining agent can be challenged. (Tanduay Distillery Labor Union v. NLRC; G.R. No. 75037) We start with the restatement of the rule that no petition for certification election may be entertained if filed outside the sixty-day period immediately before the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement. The purpose of the prohibition against the filing of a petition for certification election outside the so-called freedom period is to ensure industrial peace between the employer and its employees during the existence of the CBA. Thus, in Trade Unions of the Philippines vs. Laguesma, we held that when a legitimate labor organization has been certified as the sole and exclusive bargaining agent of the rank-and-file employees of a given employer, it means that it shall remain as such during the existence of the CBA, to the exclusion of other labor organizations, and no petition questioning the majority status of said incumbent agent or any certification election be conducted outside the sixty-day freedom period immediately before the expiry date of the CBA. (Republic Planters v. Laguesma; G.R. No. 119675)
Significantly, petitioner's act of dismissing respondents stemmed from the latter's act of signing an authorization letter to file a petition for certification election as they signed it outside the freedom period. However, we are constrained to believe that an "authorization letter to file a petition for certification election" is different from an actual "Petition for Certification Election." Likewise, as per records, it was clear that the actual Petition for Certification Election of FFW was filed only on May 18, 2000. Thus, it was within the ambit of the freedom period which commenced from March 21, 2000 until May 21, 2000. Strictly speaking, what is prohibited is the filing of a petition for certification election outside the 60-day freedom period. This is not the situation in this case. If at all, the signing of the authorization to file a certification election was merely preparatory to the filing of the petition for certification election, or an exercise of respondents right to self-organization. (PICOP Resources Inc. v. Ricardo Dequita; G.R. No. 172666)