Fadriquelan v. Monterey

G.R. No. 178409: June 8, 2011




On April 30, 2002 the three-year collective bargaining agreement or CBA between the union Bukluran ng Manggagawa sa Monterey-Ilaw at Buklod ng Manggagawa (the union) and Monterey Foods Corporation (the company) expired.On March 28, 2003 after the negotiation for a new CBA reached a deadlock, the union filed a notice of strike with the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB).To head off the strike, on April 30, 2003 the company filed with the DOLE a petition for assumption of jurisdiction over the dispute in view of its dire effects on the meat industry.In an Order dated May 12, 2003, the DOLE Secretary assumed jurisdiction over the dispute and enjoined the union from holding any strike.It also directed the union and the company to desist from taking any action that may aggravate the situation.

On May 21, 2003 the union filed a second notice of strike before the NCMB on the alleged ground that the company committed unfair labor practices.On June 10, 2003 the company sent notices to the union officers, charging them with intentional acts of slowdown.Six days later or on June 16 the company sent new notices to the union officers, informing them of their termination from work for defying the DOLE Secretarys assumption order.

On June 23, 2003, acting on motion of the company, the DOLE Secretary included the unions second notice of strike in his earlier assumption order.But, on the same day, the union filed a third notice of strike based on allegations that the company had engaged in union busting and illegal dismissal of union officers.On July 7, 2003 the company filed a petition for certification of the labor dispute to the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) for compulsory arbitration but the DOLE Secretary denied the motion.He, however, subsumed the third notice of strike under the first and second notices.

On November 20, 2003 the DOLE rendered a decision that, among other things, upheld the companys termination of the 17 union officers.The union and its officers appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals (CA).

On May 29, 2006 the CA rendered a decision, upholding the validity of the companys termination of 10 union officers but declaring illegal that of the other seven.Both parties sought recourse to this Court, the union in G.R. 178409 and the company in G.R. 178434.

ISSUE: Whether the CA erred in in holding that union officers committed illegal acts that warranted their dismissal from work.


LABOR LAW: Labor Relations, Strike

The law is explicit: no strikeshall be declared after the Secretary of Labor has assumed jurisdiction over a labor dispute.A strike conducted after such assumption is illegal and any union officer who knowingly participates in the samemay be declared as having lost his employment.\ Here, what is involved is a slowdown strike.Unlike other forms of strike, the employees involved in a slowdown do not walk out of their jobs to hurt the company.They need only to stop work or reduce the rate of their work while generally remaining in their assigned post.

The Court finds that the union officers and members in this case held a slowdown strike at the companys farms despite the fact that theDOLE Secretary had on May 12, 2003 already assumed jurisdiction over their labor dispute.The evidence sufficiently shows that union officers and members simultaneously stopped work at the companys Batangas and Cavite farms at 7:00 a.m. on May 26, 2003.

The union of course argues that it merely held assemblies to inform members of the developments in the CBA negotiation, not protest demonstrations over it.But as the CA correctly observed, if the meetings had really been for the stated reason, why did the union officers and members from separate company farms choose to start and end their meetings at the same time and on the same day?And if they did not intend a slowdown, why did they not hold their meetings after work.There is no allegation that the company prevented the union from holding meetings after working hours.

Second.Adistinction exists, however, between the ordinary workers liability forillegal strike and that of the union officers who participated in it.The ordinary worker cannot be terminated for merely participating in the strike.Theremust be proof that he committedillegal acts during its conduct.On the other hand,a union officer can be terminated upon mere proof that he knowingly participated in the illegal strike.

Still, the participating union officers have to be properly identified.

The Court sustains the validity of the termination of the rest of the union officers. These officers simply refused to work or they abandoned their work to join union assemblies.
In termination cases, the dismissed employee is not required to prove his innocence of the charges against him.The burden of proof rests upon the employer to show that the employees dismissal was for just cause.The employers failure to do so means that the dismissal was not justified.[16]Here, the company failed to show that all 17 union officers deserved to be dismissed.

Ordinarily, the illegally dismissed employees are entitled to two reliefs: reinstatement and backwages. Still, the Court has held that the grant of separation pay, instead of reinstatement, may be proper especially when as in this case such reinstatementis no longer practical or will be for the best interest of the parties. But they shall likewise beentitled to attorneys fees equivalent to 10% of the total monetary award for having been compelled to litigate in order to protect their interests.