Labor laws before the Labor Code

In Azucena's book, it is explained that there were some sixty pieces of labor laws in effect when the Labor Code project began. Although most of them are already abrogated by the Code, some are still relevant because the rationale or policy behind them has been carried over to the Code, and many court rulings about them remain controlling to this day.

The oldest was Act No. 1874, or the Employer’s Liability Act enacted on June 19, 1908 by the Philippine Legislature. There were also Act No. 2549 (enacted on January 21, 1916) which prohibited payment of wages in non-cash form; Act No. 2071 prohibiting slavery or involuntary servitude; R.A. No. 1054, requiring emergency medical treatment for employees; and C.A. No. 444 or the Eight-Hour Labor Law.

Commonwealth Act No. 103 created the Court of Industrial Relations (CIR), precursor of the National Labor Relations Commission under P.D. No. 21 (passed in the early years of the Martial Law regime) and the present NLRC. Its task, much like the present, was to investigate, decide and settle all disputes between employers and employees.

The Industrial Peace Act (R.A. No. 875), passed in 1953, was the law governing labor-management relations. Hailed as the Magna Carta of Labor, it was modelled after the US Labor-Management Relations Act of 1947, also known as the Taft-Hartley Act which, in turn, amended the National Labor Relations Act or the Wagner Act. Most of the basic principles of the National Labor Relations Act of the United States have been carried over to the Industrial Peace Act and now, indirectly, to the Labor Code.
[U]nder RA 875 (the Industry Peace Act), persons "employed in proprietary functions of the Government, including but not limited to governmental corporations," had the right of self-organization and collective bargaining, including the right to engage in concerted activities to attain their objectives, e.g. strikes. (G.R. Nos. 43633-34, September 14, 1990)
But those "employed in governmental functions" were forbidden to "strike for the purpose of securing changes or modification in their terms and conditions of employment" or join labor organizations which imposed on their members the duty to strike. The reason obviously was that the terms and conditions of their employment were "governed by law" and hence could not be fixed, altered or otherwise modified by collective bargaining. (G.R. Nos. 43633-34, September 14, 1990)
Supervisory employees were forbidden to join labor organizations composed of employees under them, but could form their own unions. Considered "supervisors' were those 'having authority in the interest of an employer to hire, transfer, suspend, lay-off, recall, discharge, assign, recommend, or discipline other employees, or responsibly to direct them, and to adjust their grievance or effectively to recommend such acts if, in connection with the foregoing, the exercise of such authority is not merely routinary or clerical in nature but requires the use of independent judgment." (G.R. Nos. 43633-34, September 14, 1990)
The “Blue Sunday Law” (R.A. No. 946) used to forbid commercial, industrial or agricultural enterprises to open on any Sunday, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Holy Thursday, and Good Friday. The rationale was noted thus: “Sundays and legal holidays are set aside by law as days of rest. The life, existence, and happiness of a person do not depend only on the satisfaction of his physical needs. There are moral, intellectual, and spiritual needs as imperative as the physical ones.”Yet the Labor Code has made Sunday an ordinary working day.
Section 6 of the Blue Sunday Law which says that "it shall be unlawful for any employer to reduce the compensation of any of his employees or laborers by reason of the provisions of this Act" does not militate against this view. There is here no attempt on the part of the employer to reduce the compensation of his employees. It is the law itself which in effect reduces that compensation by depriving the employees of work on Sundays, thus preventing them from earning the wages stipulatedin the bargaining agreement. (G.R. No. L-9126, January 31, 1957)
There is nothing to the contention that to apply the Blue Sunday Law to present agreement would infringe the constitutional prohibition against the impairment of the obligations of contract. The Blue Sunday Law is intended for the health, well-being and happiness of the working class and is a legitimate exercise of the police power. (G.R. No. L-9126, January 31, 1957)
The Termination Pay Law (R.A. No. 1052 as amended by R.A. No. 1787) enumerated the “just causes” for terminating an employment without a definite period and allowed employers to separate an employee by simply serving a 15-day notice per year of service or, instead of notice, by paying an equivalent separation pay. Security of tenure, now protected by the Constitution and the Labor Code, was nonexistent.

The discussion above is based on an outline by Azucena (2013). His books are available in fine bookstores nationwide. SOURCE: Azucena, C. A. (2013). The Labor Code: with Comments and Cases (Vol. 1). National Book Store.