Case Digest: Leyte Geothermal Power Employees v. Philippine National Oil Company

G.R. No. 170351: March 30, 2011




Among respondents geothermal projects is the Leyte Geothermal Power Project located at the Greater Tongonan Geothermal Reservation in Leyte. Respondent hired and employed hundreds of employees on a contractual basis, whereby, their employment was only good up to the completion or termination of the project and would automatically expire upon the completion of such project.

Majority of the employees hired by respondent in its Leyte Geothermal Power Projects had become members of petitioner. In view of that circumstance, the petitioner demands from the respondent for recognition of it as the collective bargaining agent of said employees and for a CBA negotiation with it. However, the respondent did not heed such demands of the petitioner. Sometime in 1998 when the project was about to be completed, the respondent proceeded to serve Notices of Termination of Employment upon the employees who are members of the petitioner.

Petitioner filed a Notice of Strike with DOLE against the respondent on the ground of purported commission by the latter of unfair labor practice for "refusal to bargain collectively, union busting and mass termination." On the same day, the petitioner declared a strike and staged such strike.

The Labor Secretary then intervened and issued an order for compulsory arbitration and a return to work order. However, despite earnest efforts on the part of the Secretary of Labor and Employment to settle the dispute amicably, the petitioner remained adamant and unreasonable in its position, causing the failure of the negotiation towards a peaceful compromise. In effect, the petitioner did not abide by the assumption order issued by the Secretary of Labor.

Respondent filed a complaint for illegal strike and a petition for cancellation of petitioners certificate of registration. The NLRC ruled in favor of respondent. Petitioner union filed a motion for reconsideration but the same was denied. The CA likewise denied their petition. Hence, this appeal by certiorari before the SC.

Whether or not the officers and members of the union are project employees

Whether the officers and members of the union engaged in illegal strike


Article 280 of the Labor Code, as worded, establishes that the nature of the employment is determined by law, regardless of any contract expressing otherwise. The supremacy of the law over the nomenclature of the contract and the stipulations contained therein is to bring to life the policy enshrined in the Constitution to "afford full protection to labor. Thus, labor contracts are placed on a higher plane than ordinary contracts; these are imbued with public interest and therefore subject to the police power of the State.

In the case at bar, the records reveal that the officers and the members of petitioner Union signed employment contracts indicating the specific project or phase of work for which they were hired, with a fixed period of employment. As clearly shown by petitioner Unions own admission, both parties had executed the contracts freely and voluntarily without force, duress or acts tending to vitiate the workers consent. Thus, we see no reason not to honor and give effect to the terms and conditions stipulated therein.

In the case at bar, both the NLRC and the CA were one in the conclusion that the officers and the members of petitioner Union were project employees. Nonetheless, petitioner Union insists that they were regular employees since they performed work which was usually necessary or desirable to the usual business or trade of the Construction Department of respondent.

Firstly, a project could refer to a particular job or undertaking that is within the regular or usual business of the employer company, but which is distinct and separate, and identifiable as such, from the other undertakings of the company. The term "project" could also refer to, secondly, a particular job or undertaking that is not within the regular business of the corporation.

In this case, as previously adverted to, the officers and the members of petitioner Union were specifically hired as project employees for respondents Leyte Geothermal Power Project located at the Greater Tongonan Geothermal Reservation in Leyte. Consequently, upon the completion of the project or substantial phase thereof, the officers and the members of petitioner Union could be validly terminated.

Petitioner Unions members employment for more than a year does equate to their regular employment with respondent. A project employee has been defined to be one whose employment has been fixed for a specific project or undertaking, the completion or termination of which has been determined at the time of the engagement of the employee, or where the work or service to be performed is seasonal in nature and the employment is for the duration of the season, as in the present case.

Petitioners being project employees, or, to use the correct term, seasonal employees, their employment legally ends upon completion of the project or the [end of the] season. The termination of their employment cannot and should not constitute an illegal dismissal.


The failure to comply with the mandatory requisites for the conduct of strike, as provided under Article 263 of the Labor Code, is both admitted and clearly shown on record. Hence, it is undisputed that no strike vote was conducted; likewise, the cooling-off period was not observed and that the 7-day strike ban after the submission of the strike vote was not complied with since there was no strike vote taken. The factual issue of whether a notice of strike was timely filed by petitioner Union was resolved by the evidence on record. The evidence revealed that petitioner Union struck even before it could file the required notice of strike.

In fine, petitioner Unions bare contention that it did not hold a strike cannot trump the factual findings of the NLRC that petitioner Union indeed struck against respondent. In fact, and more importantly, petitioner Union failed to comply with the requirements set by law prior to holding a strike.


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