Lapanday vs NLRC

Posted: May 1, 2015 in case digests, labor relations
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Lapanday vs NLRC

1995 Sept 07

By:  Zendy Garcia-Budhi

Facts:   Lapanday Agricultural and Development Corporation (LADECO) and Cadeco Argo Development Phils Inc. are sister companies engaged in the production of bananas. Their agricultural establishments are located in Davao City. They agreed to a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) covering the period from December 5, 1985 to November 30, 1988 with Lapanday Workers’ Union (Union). Said union  is the duly certified bargaining agent of the rank and file employees and is affiliated with the KMU-ANGLO.

Before the expiration of the CBA, the management policies were initiated by the sister companies  which changed the relationship of the parties:

  • Sister companies contracted with Philippine Eagle Protectors and Security Agency, Inc., to provide security services. But there was an allegation that guards intimidated and harassed the union members.
  • Seminars on Human Development and Industrial Relations (HDIR) for their managerial and supervisory employees and the rank-and-file were conducted which the Union claimed that the ANGLO (Alliance of Nationalist and Genuine Labor Organization) was considered belonging to other outlawed labor organizations such as the National Democratic Front or other leftist groups.

A  labor-management meeting was held on August 2, 1988 where the labor group  represented by its President Arquilao Bacolod, and its legal counsel raised unfair labor practices such as coercion of employees,  intimidation of the union members and union busting. They agreed to allow its members to attend the seminar for the rank-and-file employees.  But,  the Union directed its members not to attend the seminars and picketed the premises of the Philippine Eagle Protectors to show their displeasure on the hiring of the guards.

The Union filed on August 25, 1988, a Notice of Strike with the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) accusing the company of the same issues raised during the August 2, 1988 labor-management meeting. A conciliation conference was called for where it was agreed that union officers would attend the HDIR seminar deleting the discussion on KMU-ANGLO and guidelines governing the guards would be established.

On September 8, 1988, Danilo Martinez, a member of the Board of Directors of the Sister companies charged the Union with economic sabotage through slowdown to which they filed charges against the Union and its members for illegal strike, unfair labor practice and damages, with prayer for injunction.

City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte intervened but the dialogues proved fruitless as sister companies refused to withdraw the cases earlier filed with the Union. Thereafter, a strike vote was conducted among the members of the Union and those in favor of the strike won overwhelming support from the workers. The result of the strike vote was then submitted to the NCMB on October 10, 1988. Two days later, or on October 12, 1988, the Union struck.

The gunman was later identified as Eledio Samson, an alleged member of the new security forces of sister companies. This incident resulted to:

  • most of the members of the Union refused to report for work
  • they did not comply with the “quota system” adopted by the management to bolster production output
  • there were allegations that the Union instructed the workers to reduce their production to thirty per cent (30%).

Tomas Basco and 25 other workers, filed a complaint for unfair labor practice and illegal suspension against LADECO.

Another complaint for unfair labor practice and illegal dismissal was filed by the Union, together with Arquilao Bacolod and 58 other complainants. These cases were heard by Labor Arbiter Newton Sancho.

With the case filed by the sister companies, Labor Arbiter Antonio Villanueva ruled that the Union staged an illegal strike and declared the employees listed as respondents in the complaint to have lost their employment status with Lapanday Agricultural and Development Corporation and Cadeco Agro Development Philippines, Inc.; and ordered respondents (petitioners in this case) to desist from further committing an illegal strike.

Petitioners appealed the Villanueva decision to public respondent NLRC.

Before the NLRC could resolve the appeal on the Villanueva decision,  Labor Arbiter Sancho rendered a decision in the two (2) cases filed by the Union against private respondents LADECO and CADECO declaring LADECO and CADECO guilty of unfair labor practices and illegal dismissal and ordered the reinstatement of the dismissed employees of private respondents, with backwages and other benefits. It considered the refusal of the workers to report for work on September 9, 1988, justified by the circumstance then prevailing which is the killing of Danilo Martinez on September 8,1988.

NLRC upheld the decision of Labor Arbiter Villanueva. The Union filed its MR but to no avail. Hence, this petition claiming that NLRC gravely abused its discretion in: a) declaring that their activities, from September 9, 1988 to October 12, 1988, were strike activities; and b) declaring that the strike staged on October 12, 1988 was illegal.

ISSUE: Whether strike staged on October  12, 1988 illegal

HELD:  Yes, as it was held within the seven (7) day waiting period provided for by paragraph (f), Article 263 of the Labor Code, as amended. The haste in holding the strike prevented the Department of Labor and Employment from verifying whether it carried the approval of the majority of the union members.  Hence, there was no grave abuse of discretion committed.

RATIO: The applicable laws are Articles 263 and 264 of the Labor Code, as amended by E.O. No. 111, dated December 24, 1986. 

Paragraphs (c) and (f) of Article 263 of the Labor Code, as amended by E.O. 111, provides:

(c) In cases of bargaining deadlocks, the duly certified or recognized bargaining agent may file anotice of strike or the employer may file, notice of lockout with the Ministry at least 30 days before the intended date thereof. In cases of unfair labor practice, the notice shall be 15 days and in the absence of a duly certified or recognized bargaining agent, the notice of strike may be filed by any legitimate labor organization in behalf of its members. However, in case of dismissal from employment of union officers duly elected in accordance with the union constitution and by-laws, which may constitute union busting where the existence of the union is threatened, the 15-daycooling-off period shall not apply and the union may take action immediately.

xxx xxx xxx

(f) A decision to declare a strike must be approved by a majority of the total union membership in the bargaining unit concerned, obtained by secret ballot in meetings or referenda called for that purpose. A decision to declare a lockout must be approved by a majority of the board of directors of the corporation or association or of the partners in a partnership, obtained by secret ballot in a meeting called for that purpose. The decision shall be valid for the duration of the dispute based on substantially the same grounds considered when the strike or lockout vote was taken. The Ministry may, at its own initiative or upon the request of any affected party, supervise the conduct of secret balloting. In every case, the union or the employer shall furnish the Ministry the results of the votingat least seven (7) days before the intended strike or lockout subject to the cooling-off period herein provided.

Article 264 of the same Code reads:

Art. 264. Prohibited activities. — (a) No labor organization or employer shall declare a strike or lockout without first having bargained collectively in accordance with Title VII of this Book or without first having filed the notice required in the preceding Article or without the necessary strike or lockout vote first having been obtained and reported to the Ministry.

xxx xxx xxx

. . . . Any union officer who knowingly participates in an illegal strike and any worker or union officer who knowingly participates in the commission of illegal acts during a strike may be declared to have lost his employment status: Provided that mere participation of a worker in a lawful strike shall not constitute sufficient ground for termination of his employment, even if a replacement had been hired by the employer during such lawful strike. (emphasis ours).

DISPOSITIVE: The petition is dismissed for failure to show grave abuse of discretion on the part of the public respondent. Costs against the petitioners.

LABREL CASE DIGEST POOL / ATTORNEY JHONELLE ESTRADA / MONDAYS / 5:30 PM TO 8:30 PM / NEW ERA UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF LAW

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