Similarly situated

Published by reposted only Date posted on December 7, 2011

What is the punishment for employees who joined an illegal strike? This is answered in this case of the 121 employees of a multipurpose livelihood cooperative and a motor corporation (MMLC and SMC) who joined a labor union (KMLMS). Of these employees 14 became union officers while 107 were union members.

At the time they joined KMLMS, it was not yet registered as an independent labor organization. It was registered as a labor union in the Department of Labor and Employment only on April 9, 2002 and became officially affiliated as a local chapter of Pambansang Kaisahan ng Manggagawang Pilipino (PKMP) on April 19, 2002. But prior to that or on March 5, 2002, KMLMS already filed a notice of strike and on April 8, 2002 it conducted a strike vote.

Thereafter, on May 6, 2002, when it was already a legitimate labor organization, KMLMS staged a strike with the aforesaid 121 employees of MMLC and SMC participating. Based on photographs, eyewitness accounts of those who recognized them and the police blotters, the participating union members and officers committed acts of (1) interference by obstructing the free ingress to or egress from the MMLC and SMC compound; and (2) coercion and intimidation.

So MMLC and SMC filed before the NLRC, Regional Arbitration Board (RAB) IV, a petition to declare the strike of May 6, 2002 illegal and that their employees who participated in the illegal strike be declared to have lost or forfeited their employment status.

On March 26, 2004, the Labor Arbiter (LA) rendered a decision finding the May 6, 2002 strike illegal and declaring the 27 employees-union members and 14 employees-union officers to have lost their employment. The LA found the strike illegal because mandatory notice of strike was made, and the strike vote was conducted, before KMLMS acquired legal personality as a legitimate labor organization, thus violating Article 263 (c), (d) an (f) of the Labor Code and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (Rule XXII, Book V). The LA also found the strike illegal because the strikers committed prohibited and illegal acts of obstruction, coercion and intimidation

On October 15, 2004, the NLRC affirmed the LA decision that the strike was illegal but modified it by adding 7 more union member-employees to have forfeited their employment status. This NLRC decision was affirmed by the Court of Appeals (CA) without any further modification on June 30, 2009.

MMLC and SMC questioned the CA ruling before the Supreme Court. They claimed that the additional 73 similarly erring members should also be declared to have lost their employment status. Were they correct?

Yes. The strike is really illegal because the filing of the notice of strike and the conduct of the strike vote by the KMLMS did not comply with the aforementioned mandatory requirements of Article 263 of the Labor Code and its IRR. Substantial evidence also shows that when the May 6, 2002 strike was staged, the strikers committed acts of obstruction, coercion and intimidation which are prohibited by Article 264 of the Labor Code.

Under said Article 264, there is a substantial distinction on the consequences of an illegal strike between union officers and mere members. For union officers, knowingly participating in an illegal strike is already a valid ground for termination of employment. But for union members, their employment may be terminated only if they committed prohibited and illegal acts aside from knowingly participating therein.

Hence in this case, the employment of the 14 union officers is validly terminated even if they may not have committed prohibited and illegal acts. With respect to the other employees who are union members, substantial evidence shows that not only the 34 members whose employment status was declared lost by the CA committed prohibited and illegal acts. The 73 others likewise committed those acts. Hence these other un-penalized members are similarly situated as those who were penalized in that they all committed the prohibited and illegal acts. They should also terminated from the service (Magdala Multipurpose & Livelihood Cooperative and Sanlor Motors Corp. vs. Kilusang Manggagawa etc, G.R. 191138-39, October 19, 2011). –Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star)

Note: Books containing compilation of my articles on Labor Law and Criminal Law (Vols. I and II) are now available. Call tel. 7249445.

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