Unionism under Philippine law

Right to self-organization includes right to form a union, workers' association and labor management councils

More often than not, the right to self-organization connotes unionism. Workers, however, can also form and join a workers' association as well as labor-management councils (LMC). Expressed in the highest law of the land is the right of all workers to self-organization. Section 3, Article XIII of the 1987 Constitution states:
Section 3. The State shall afford full protection to labor, local and overseas, organized and unorganized, and promote full employment and equality of employment opportunities for all. It 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. xxx [Emphasis Supplied]
And Section 8, Article III of the 1987 Constitution also states:
Section 8. The right of the people, including those employed in the public and private sectors, to form unions, associations, or societies for purposes not contrary to law shall not be abridged.

In relation thereto, Article 3 of the Labor Code provides:

Article 3. Declaration of basic policy. The State shall afford protection to labor, promote full employment, ensure equal work opportunities regardless of sex, race or creed and regulate the relations between workers and employers. The State shall assure the rights of workers to self-organization, collective bargaining, security of tenure, and just and humane conditions of work. [Emphasis Supplied]

As Article 246 (now 252) of the Labor Code provides, the right to self-organization includes the right to form, join or assist labor organizations for the purpose of collective bargaining through representatives of their own choosing and to engage in lawful concerted activities for the same purpose for their mutual aid and protection. This is in line with the policy of the State to foster the free and voluntary organization of a strong and united labor movement as well as to make sure that workers participate in policy and decision-making processes affecting their rights, duties and welfare.[1]

The right to form a union or association or to self-organization comprehends two notions, to wit: (a) the liberty or freedom, that is, the absence of restraint which guarantees that the employee may act for himself without being prevented by law; and (b) the power, by virtue of which an employee may, as he pleases, join or refrain from joining an association.[2]

In view of the revered right of every worker to self-organization, the law expressly allows and even encourages the formation of labor organizations. A labor organization is defined as "any union or association of employees which exists in whole or in part for the purpose of collective bargaining or of dealing with employers concerning terms and conditions of employment."[3] A labor organization has two broad rights: (1) to bargain collectively and (2) to deal with the employer concerning terms and conditions of employment. To bargain collectively is a right given to a union once it registers itself with the DOLE. Dealing with the employer, on the other hand, is a generic description of interaction between employer and employees concerning grievances, wages, work hours and other terms and conditions of employment, even if the employees' group is not registered with the DOLE.[4]

A union refers to any labor organization in the private sector organized for collective bargaining and for other legitimate purpose,[5] while a workers' association is an organization of workers formed for the mutual aid and protection of its members or for any legitimate purpose other than collective bargaining.[6]

Many associations or groups of employees, or even combinations of only several persons, may qualify as a labor organization yet fall short of constituting a labor union. While every labor union is a labor organization, not every labor organization is a labor union. The difference is one of organization, composition and operation.[7]

[1] Article 211 (now 217), Labor Code of the Philippines.

[2] Knitjoy Mfg., Inc. v. Ferrer-Calleja, G.R. No. 81883, September 23, 1992, 214 SCRA 174.

[3] Article 218 (g), Labor Code of the Philippines.

[4] Azucena, The Labor Code with Comments and Cases, Volume 2, p. 127 (1996); Pascual, Labor Relations Law, pp. 35-36.

[5] Section 1 (zz), Omnibus Rules Implementing the Labor Code.

[6] Section 1 (ccc), Omnibus Rules Implementing the Labor Code.

[7] Azucena, p. 13, The Labor Code with Comments and Cases, Volume 2, 7th Edition, 2010.