Faculty Union v. University of Pangasinan (G.R. No. L-63122)


FACTS: The petitioner's members are full-time professors, instructors, and teachers of respondent University. The teachers in the college level teach for a normal duration of ten (10) months in a school year, divided into two (2) semesters of five months each, excluding the two-month summer vacation. They are paid their salaries on a regular monthly basis.

In November and December, 1981, the petitioner’s members were fully paid their regular monthly salaries. However, from November 7 to December 5, during the semestral break, they were not paid their ECOLA or emergency cost-of-living allowance. The University claims that the teachers are not entitled thereto because the semestral break is not an integral part of the school year and there being no actual services rendered by the teachers during said period, the principle of "no work, no pay" applies.

HELD: Petitioner's members are full-time employees receiving their monthly salaries irrespective of the number of working days or teaching hours in a month. They are forced to go on leave during semestral breaks. These semestral breaks are in the nature of work interruptions beyond their control. The duration of the semestral break varies from year to year dependent on a variety of circumstances, affecting at times only the private respondent but at other times, all educational institutions in the country. As such, these breaks cannot be considered as absences within the meaning of the law for which deductions may be made from monthly allowances.

The "no work, no pay" principle does not apply here. These teachers received their regular salaries during this period. Such principle applies only when workers voluntarily skip work.Petitioners here certainly do not, ad voluntatem, absent themselves during semestral breaks. Rather, they are constrained to take mandatory leave from work. For this, they cannot be faulted nor can they be begrudged that which is due them under the law. To a certain extent, the private respondent can specify dates when no classes would be held. Surely, it was not the intention of the framers of the law to allow employers to withhold employee benefits by the simple expedient of unilaterally imposing "no work" days and consequently avoiding compliance with the mandate of the law for these days.

By analogy, the implementing rules say: "The time during which an employee is inactive by reason of interruptions in his work beyond his control shall be considered time either if the imminence of the resumption of work required the employee’s presence at the place of work or if the interval is too brief to be utilized effectively and gainfully in the employee’s own interest."

These teachers are exactly in such a situation. The semestral break scheduled is an interruption beyond their control and it cannot be used "effectively nor gainfully in the employee’s interest." Thus, the semestral break may also be considered as "hours worked." For this, the teachers are paid regular salaries and, for this, they should be entitled to ECOLA. Not only do the teachers continue to work during this short recess but much less do they cease to live for which the cost-of-living allowance is intended. The legal principles of "no work, no pay; no pay, no ECOLA" must necessarily give way to the purpose of the law to augment the income of employees to enable them to cope with the harsh living conditions brought about by inflation; and to protect employees and their wages against the ravages brought by these conditions.