Who are covered by or entitled to CBA benefits?
When there has been a factual determination by the Labor Arbiter that the petitioners were regular employees, said employees shall fall within the coverage of the bargaining unit and are therefore entitled to CBA benefits as a matter of law and contract. (Farley Fulache, et al. v. ABS-CBN; G.R. No. 183810)
As regular employees, the petitioners fall within the coverage of the bargaining unit and are therefore entitled to CBA benefits as a matter of law and contract. In the root decision (the labor arbiters decision of January 17, 2002) that the NLRC and CA affirmed, the labor arbiter declared:
WHEREFORE, IN THE LIGHT OF THE FOREGOING, taking into account the factual scenario and the evidence adduced by both parties, it is declared that complainants in these cases are REGULAR EMPLOYEES of respondent ABS-CBN and not INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS and thus henceforth they are entitled to the benefits and privileges attached to regular status of their employment.
This declaration unequivocally settled the petitioners employment status: they are ABS-CBNs regular employees entitled to the benefits and privileges of regular employees. These benefits and privileges arise from entitlements under the law (specifically, the Labor Code and its related laws), and from their employment contract as regular ABS-CBN employees, part of which is the CBA if they fall within the coverage of this agreement. Thus, what only needs to be resolved as an issue for purposes of implementation of the decision is whether the petitioners fall within CBA coverage.
The parties 1999-2002 CBA provided in its Article I (Scope of the Agreement) that:
Section 1. APPROPRIATE BARGAINING UNIT. The parties agree that the appropriate bargaining unit shall be regular rank-and-file employees of ABS-CBN BROADCASTING CORPORATION but shall not include:
a) Personnel classified as Supervisor and Confidential employees;
b) Personnel who are on casual or probationary status as defined in Section 2 hereof;
c) Personnel who are on contract status or who are paid for specified units of work such as writer-producers, talent-artists, and singers.
The inclusion or exclusion of new job classifications into the bargaining unit shall be subject of discussion between the COMPANY and the UNION.
Under these terms, the petitioners are members of the appropriate bargaining unit because they are regular rank-and-file employees and do not belong to any of the excluded categories. Specifically, nothing in the records shows that they are supervisory or confidential employees; neither are they casual nor probationary employees. Most importantly, the labor arbiters decision of January 17, 2002 affirmed all the way up to the CA level ruled against ABS-CBNs submission that they are independent contractors. Thus, as regular rank-and-file employees, they fall within CBA coverage under the CBAs express terms and are entitled to its benefits.
We see no merit in ABS-CBNs arguments that the petitioners are not entitled to CBA benefits because: (1) they did not claim these benefits in their position paper; (2) the NLRC did not categorically rule that the petitioners were members of the bargaining unit; and (3) there was no evidence of this membership. To further clarify what we stated above, CBA coverage is not only a question of fact, but of law and contract. The factual issue is whether the petitioners are regular rank-and-file employees of ABS-CBN. The tribunals below uniformly answered this question in the affirmative. From this factual finding flows legal effects touching on the terms and conditions of the petitioners regular employment. This was what the labor arbiter meant when he stated in his decision that henceforth they are entitled to the benefits and privileges attached to regular status of their employment. Significantly, ABS-CBN itself posited before this Court that the Court of Appeals did not gravely err nor gravely abuse its discretion when it affirmed the resolution of the NLRC dated March 24, 2006 reinstating and adopting in toto the decision of the Labor Arbiter dated January 17, 2002 x x x. This representation alone fully resolves all the objections procedural or otherwise ABS-CBN raised on the regularization issue.