Labor rights of government employees

Republic Act No. 875 known as the Industrial Peace Act was passed in 1953 in order to, among others, "eliminate the causes of industrial unrest by encouraging and protecting the exercise by employees of their right to self-organization for the purpose of collective bargaining and for the promotion of their moral, social, and economic well-being."[1] This early law prohibited government employees from engaging in strikes to secure changes in their employment terms and conditions:
SEC. 11. Prohibition Against Strikes in the Government.—The terms and conditions of employment in the Government, including any political subdivision ot instrumentality thereof, are governed by law and it is declared to be the policy of this Act that employees therein shall not strike for the purpose of securing changes or modification in their terms and conditions of employment, Such employees may belong to any-labor organization which does not impose the obligation to strike or to join in strike: Provided, however, That this section shall apply only to employees employed in governmental functions and not to those employed in proprietary functions of the Government including but not limited to governmental corporations.[2] (Emphasis supplied)
The last sentence differentiates between employees of government bodies that exercise governmental functions, and employees of those that exercise proprietary functions such as government corporations. The latter were not covered by the prohibition.

Presidential Decree No. 442 known as the Labor Code was passed in 1974. This changed the policy by "'exempt[ing]' . . . government employees, including employees of government-owned and/or controlled corporations[,]"[3] from the right to self-organization for purposes of collective bargaining. It provides that the Civil Service Law rules and regulations govern even the government-owned and controlled corporations:
Article 276. Government employees. The terms and conditions of employment of all government employees, including employees of government-owned and controlled corporations, shall be governed by the Civil Service Law, rules and regulations. Their salaries shall be standardized by the National Assembly as provided for in the new constitution. However, there shall be no reduction of existing wages, benefits and other terms and conditions of employment being enjoyed by them at the time of the adoption of this Code.[4]

Alliance of Government Workers v. Minister of Labor[5] ruled that petitioner government workers have the right to form associations, shared with all in public service, "[b]ut they may not join associations which impose the obligation to engage in concerted activities in order to get salaries, fringe benefits, and other emoluments higher than or different from that provided by law and regulation."[6] Laws that allow employees of agencies discharging proprietary functions to engage in strikes or other concerted activities belong to the past.[7]

Government-owned and controlled corporations were further differentiated in 1986 when former President Corazon C. Aquino issued Executive Order No. 111 granting employees "of government corporations established under the Corporation Code the right to organize and to bargain collectively with their respective employers."[8] Thus, this differentiated employees of government corporations established by law having their own charter from those established under the Corporation Code.

Executive Order No. 180 was enacted in June 1, 1987 entitled Providing Guidelines for the Exercise of the Right to Organize of Government Employees, Creating a Public Sector Labor-Management Council, and for Other Purposes. This order "applies to all employees of all branches, subdivisions, instrumentalities, and agencies of the Government, including government-owned or controlled corporations with original charters."[9]

Also enacted in 1987, our present Constitution provides that "the right to self-organization shall not be denied to government employees,"[10] and the state "shall guarantee the rights of all workers to self-organization, collective bargaining and negotiations, and peaceful concerted activities, including the right to strike in accordance with law."[11]

The Constitution's Bill of Rights also provides that "[n]o law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition government for redress of grievances."[12]

Courts have read this constitutional provision on the right to freedom of expression together with the other constitutional provisions, laws, jurisprudence, and implementing rules and regulations that reflect the state's policy on the different government employees' right to peaceful concerted activities and to self-organization for purposes of collective bargaining, leading to an understanding of a limited or regulated right to freedom of expression by government employees in differing levels of limitation depending on the nature of functions discharged by the -different government branches, departments, bureaus, offices, and other government agencies and instrumentalities. (Justice Leonen, concurring in Davao City Water District v. Aranjuez, et al., G.R. No. 194192, 16 June 2015)

[1] Rep. Act No. 875 (1953), sec. 1 (a).

[2] Rep. Act No. 875 (1953), sec. 11.

[3] Arizala v. Court of Appeals, G.R. Nos. L-43633-34, September 14, 1990, 189 SCRA 584, 593 [Per J. Narvasa, First Division], citing Implementing Rules and Regulations, book V rule 11 sec. 1.

[4] Pres. Decree No. 442 (1974), sec. 276.

[5] 209 Phil. 1 (1983) [Per J. Gutierrez, Jr., En Banc].

[6] Id. at 21.

[7] Id. at 16.

[8] Arizala v. Court of Appeals, G.R. Nos. L-43633-34, September 14, 1990, 189 SCRA 584, 595 [Per J. Narvasa, First Division], citing LABOR CODE, art. 224; book V, rule 11, sec. 1, Implementing Rules and Regulations, as amended by sec. 3. Implementing Rules and Regulations, Exec. Order No. 111.

[9] Exec. Order No. 180 (1987), sec. 1.

[10] CONST., art. IX-B, sec. 2 (5).

[11] CONST., art. XIII, sec. 3.

[12] CONST., art. Ill, sec. 4.