CASE DIGEST: VCMC v. Yballe

G.R NO. 196156 : JANUARY 15, 2014

VISAYAS COMMUNITY MEDICAL CENTER (VCMC), formerly known as METRO CEBU COMMUNITY HOSPITAL (MCCH), Petitioner, v. ERMA YBALLE, NELIA ANGEL, ELEUTERIA CORTEZ and EVELYN ONG, Respondents.

VILLARAMA, JR., J.:


FACTS:

Respondents were hired as staff nurses (Ong and Angel) and midwives (Yballe and Cortez) by petitioner Visayas Community Medical Center (VCMC), formerly the Metro Cebu Community Hospital, Inc. (MCCHI). MCCHI is a non-stock, non-profit corporation hich operates the Metro Cebu Community Hospital (MCCH), a tertiary medical institution owned by the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP).

The National Federation of Labor (NFL) is the exclusive bargaining representative of the rank-and-file employees of MCCHI.Under the 1987 and 1991 Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs).

On December 6, 1995, Nava wrote Rev. Iyoy expressing the union desire to renew the CBA, attaching to her letter a statement of proposals signed/endorsed by 153 union members.Nava subsequently requested that the following employees be allowed to avail of one-day union leave with pay on December 19, 1995. However, MCCHI returned the CBA proposal for Nava to secure first the endorsement of the legal counsel of NFL as the official bargaining representative of MCCHI employees.

Meanwhile, Atty. Alforque informed MCCHI that the proposed CBA submitted by Nava was never referred to NFL and that NFL has not authorized any other legal counsel or any person for collective bargaining negotiations.

On February 26, 1996, upon the request of Atty. Alforque, MCCHI granted one-day union leave with pay for 12 union members. The next day, several union members led by Nava and her group launched a series of mass actions such as wearing black and red armbands/headbands, marching around the hospital premises and putting up placards, posters and streamers.Atty. Alforque immediately disowned the concerted activities being carried out by union members which are not sanctioned by NFL.MCCHI directed the union officers led by Nava to submit within 48 hours a written explanation why they should not be terminated for having engaged in illegal concerted activities amounting to strike, and place them under immediate preventive suspension.

Responding to this directive, Nava and her group denied there was a temporary stoppage of work, explaining that employees wore their armbands only as a sign of protest and reiterating their demand for MCCHI to comply with its duty to bargain collectively.

On March 13 and 19, 1996, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Regional Office No. 7 issued certifications stating thatthere is nothing in their records which shows thatNAMA-MCCH-NFL isa registered labor organization, and that said union submitted only a copy of its Charter Certificate on January 31, 1995.MCCHI then sent individual notices to all union members asking them to submit within 72 hours a written explanation why they should not be terminated for having supported the illegal concerted activities of NAMA-MCCH-NFL which has no legal personality as per DOLE records.

On March 13, 1996, NAMA-MCCH-NFL filed a Notice of Strike but the same was deemed not filed for want of legal personality on the part of the filer.

Meanwhile, the scheduled investigations did not push through because the striking union members insisted on attending the same only as a group.MCCHI again sent notices informing them that their refusal to submit to investigation is deemed a waiver of their right to explain their side and management shall proceed to impose proper disciplinary action under the circumstances.

Unfazed, the striking union members held more mass actions.The means of ingress to and egress from the hospital were blocked so that vehicles carrying patients and employees were barred from entering the premises.Placards were placed at the hospital entrance gate stating: lease proceed to another hospitaland e are on protest. Employees and patients reported acts of intimidation and harassment perpetrated by union leaders and members.With the intensified atmosphere of violence and animosity within the hospital premises as a result of continued protest activities by union members, MCCHI suffered heavy losses due to low patient admission rates.

The hospital suppliers also refused to make further deliveries on credit.With the volatile situation adversely affecting hospital operations and the condition of confined patients, MCCHI filed a petition for injunction in the NLRC on July 9, 1996.A temporary restraining order (TRO) was issued on July 16, 1996. MCCHI presented 12 witnesses (hospital employees and patients), including a security guard who was stabbed by an identified sympathizer while in the company of Nava group.MCCHI petition was granted and a permanent injunction was issued on September 18, 1996 enjoining the Nava group from committing illegal acts mentioned in Art. 264 of the Labor Code.

Thereafter, several complaints for illegal dismissal and unfair labor practice were filed by the terminated employees against MCCHI. Rev. Iyoy, UCCP and members of the Board of Trustees of MCCHI.

Executive Labor Arbiter Reynoso A. Belarmino rendered in his decision dismissing the claim of unfair labor practice and illegal dismissal and declaring the termination of the following as an offshoot of the illegal strike.

NLRC dismissed the motion for reconsideration filed by the respondents.

CA reversed the rulings of the Labor Artbiter and NLRC, ordered the reinstatement of respondents and the payment of their full back wages.

ISSUE: hether or not respondents did not commit illegal acts during strike?

HELD: The strike held by respondents were illegal.

Labor Law - Illegal Strike

Paragraph 3, Article 264(a) 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. . .

We stress that the law makes a distinction between union members and union officers. A worker merely participating in an illegal strike may not be terminated from employment.It is only when he commits illegal acts during a strike that he may be declared to have lost employment status. In contrast, a union officer may be terminated from employment for knowingly participating in an illegal strike or participates in the commission of illegal acts during a strike.The law grants the employer the option of declaring a union officer who participated in an illegal strike as having lost his employment. It possesses the right and prerogative to terminate the union officers from service.

In this case, the NLRC affirmed the finding of the Labor Arbiter that respondents supported and took part in the illegal strike and further declared that they were guilty of insubordination.It noted that the striking employees were determined to force management to negotiate with their union and proceeded with the strike despite knowledge that NAMA-MCCH-NFL is not a legitimate labor organization and without regard to the consequences of their acts consisting of displaying placards and marching noisily inside the hospital premises, and blocking the entry of vehicles and persons

Are respondents then entitled to back wages? In G & S Transport Corporation v. Infante, ruled in the negative: with respect to backwages, the principle of a air day wage for a fair day labor remains as the basic factor in determining the award thereof.If there is no work performed by the employee there can be no wage or pay unless, of course, the laborer was able, willing and ready to work but was illegally locked out, suspended or dismissed or otherwise illegally prevented from working. x x xIn Philippine Marine Officers Guild v. Compaia aritima, as affirmed in Philippine Diamond Hotel and Resort v. Manila Diamond Hotel Employees Union, the Court stressed that for this exception to apply, it is required that the strike be legal, a situation that does not obtain in the case at bar.

In fine, we sustain the CA in ruling that respondents who are mere union members were illegally dismissed for participating in the illegal strike conducted by the Nava group.However, we set aside the order for their reinstatement and payment of full backwages.

Petition for review on certiorari is PARTLY GRANTED.

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