Case Digest: Bagong Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa, et al. v. Secretary & Triumph International

G.R. No. 167401: July 5, 2010




The union and the company had a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that expired. The union seasonably submitted proposals to the company for its renegotiation. The negotiations reached a deadlock, leading to a Notice of Strike the union. The National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) exerted efforts but failed to resolve the deadlock.

The company filed a Notice of Lock-out for unfair labor practice due to the unions alleged work slowdown. The unionwent on strike three days later. Secretary Bienvenido E. Laguesma (Labor Secretary) of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) assumed jurisdiction over the labor dispute, pursuant to Article 263(g) of the Labor Code.The Labor Secretary directed all striking workers to return to work within twenty-four (24) hours from receipt of the assumption order, while the company was directed to accept them back to work under the same terms and conditions existing before the strike.

Several employees attempted to report for work, but the striking employees prevented them from entering the company premises. The union and the officers filed a petition to cite the company and its responsible officers for contempt, and moved that a reinstatement order be issued. They claimed that: (1) the company officials violated the Labor Secretarys return-to-work order when these officials placed them under preventive suspension and refused them entry into the company premises; (2) the company also violated the March 9, 2000 order of the Labor Secretary when they were reinstated only in the payroll; and (3) the company committed unfair labor practice and dismissed them without basis.

The Labor Secretary resolved the bargaining deadlock and awarded a wage increase of P48.00 distributed over three years. The unions other economic demands and non-economic proposals were all denied. The union elevated the case to the CA, through a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. The CA found the petition partly meritorious. It affirmed the Labor Secretary's wage increase award, but modified his ruling on the dismissal of the union officers. On the wage issue and related matters, the CA found the Labor Secretary's award legally in order.
Whether or not the award of P40.00 wage increase of the Labor Arbiter is proper?


The conclusions of the Labor Secretary, drawn as they were from a close examination of the submissions of the parties, do not indicate any legal error, much less any grave abuse of discretion. We accord respect to these conclusions as they were made by a public official especially trained in the delicate task of resolving collective bargaining disputes, and are on their face just and reasonable. "[U]nless there is a clear showing of grave abuse of discretion, this Court cannot, and will not, interfere with the labor expertise of the public respondent Secretary of Labor," as the Court held in Pier Arrastre and Stevedoring Services v. Ma. Nieves Roldan-Confesor, et al.


We agree with the CA's conclusion that the Labor Secretary erred, to the point of abusing his discretion, when he did not resolve the dismissal issue on the mistaken reading that this issue falls within the jurisdiction of the labor arbiter. This was an egregious error and an abdication of authority on the matter of strikes the ultimate weapon in labor disputes that the law specifically singled out under Article 263 of the Labor Code by granting the Labor Secretary assumption of jurisdiction powers. Article 263(g) is both an extraordinary and a preemptive power to address an extraordinary situation a strike or lockout in an industry indispensable to the national interest. This grant is not limited to the grounds cited in the notice of strike or lockout that may have preceded the strike or lockout; nor is it limited to the incidents of the strike or lockout that in the meanwhile may have taken place. As the term "assume jurisdiction" connotes, the intent of the law is to give the Labor Secretary full authority to resolve all matters within the dispute that gave rise to or which arose out of the strike or lockout; it includes and extends to all questions and controversies arising from or related to the dispute, including cases over which the labor arbiter has exclusive jurisdiction.


Under the law, the Labor Secretary's assumption of jurisdiction over the dispute or its certification to the National Labor Relations Commission for compulsory arbitration shall have the effect of automatically enjoining the intended or impending strike or lockout and all striking or locked out employees shall immediately return to work and the employer shall immediately resume operations and readmit all workers under the same terms and conditions before the strike or lockout. The union and its officers, as well as the workers, defied the Labor Secretary's assumption of jurisdiction, especially the accompanying return-to-work order within twenty-four (24) hours; their defiance made the strike illegal under the law and applicable jurisprudence. Consequently, it constitutes a valid ground for dismissal. Article 264(a), paragraph 3 of the Labor Code provides that "Any union officer who knowingly participates in an illegal strike and any worker or union officer who knowingly participates in the commission of illegal acts during a strike may be declared to have lost his employment status."

The union officers were answerable not only for resisting the Labor Secretary's assumption of jurisdiction and return-to-work orders; they were also liable for leading and instigating and, in the case of Figura, for participating in a work slowdown (during the CBA negotiations), a form of strike undertaken by the union without complying with the mandatory legal requirements of a strike notice and strike vote. These acts are similarly prohibited activities.

In a different vein, the union faulted the company for having dismissed the officers, there being no case filed on the legality or illegality of the strike. We see no merit in this argument. In Gold City Integrated Port Service, Inc. v. NLRC, we held that "[t]he law, in using the word may, grants the employer the option of declaring a union officer who participated in an illegal strike as having lost his employment." We reiterated this principle in San Juan De Dios Educational Foundation Employees Union-Alliance of Filipino Workers v. San Juan De Dios Educational Foundation, Inc., where we stated that "Despite the receipt of an order from the SOLE to return to their respective jobs, the Union officers and members refused to do so and defied the same. Consequently, then, the strike staged by the Union is a prohibited activity under Article 264 of the Labor Code. Hence, the dismissal of its officers is in order. The respondent Foundation was, thus, justified in terminating the employment of the petitioner Union's officers."


Popular Posts