Thursday, March 15, 2012

Biflex v Fiflex G.R. No. 155679 December 19, 2006

J. Carpio Morales

The officers of the Biflex labor union and the Fiflex labor union staged a work stoppage which lasted for several days, prompting respondents to file on October 31, 1990 a petition to declare the work stoppage illegal for failure to comply with procedural requirements. This was due to the rising price of oil.
On November 13, 1990, respondents resumed their operations. Petitioners claimed that they were illegally locked out by respondents and were prevented from reporting for work
Petitioners further assert that respondents were "slighted" by the workers’ no-show, and as a punishment, the workers as well as petitioners were barred from entering the company premises.
Petitioners also claim that they filed a notice of strike on October 31, 1990, explaining that those were for the convenience of union members who reported every morning to check if the management would allow them to report for work.
Respondents, on the other hand, maintain that the work stoppage was illegal since the following requirements for the staging of a valid strike were not complied with: (1) filing of notice of strike; (2) securing a strike vote, and (3) submission of a report of the strike vote to the Department of Labor and Employment.
The Labor Arbiter held that the strike was illegal. The petitioners were fired from their jobs.
On appeal, the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) reversed the ruling of the Labor Arbiter, it holding that there was no strike to speak of as no labor or industrial dispute existed between the parties.
The CA reversed this. The court said that the union wasn’t illegally locked out, given their failure to even file a letter of protest or complaint with the management, and that they failed to comply with the legal requirements of a valid strike.
In the supreme court they claimed:
1. Did the CA err in interpreting Art 264 A of the Labor Code to be mandatory in calling for the automatic dismissal of the petitioners for holding an illegal strike?
2. Did the CA err in not ruling that respondents erred in immediately implementing the labor arbiter’s decision dismissing petitioners from work despite the fact that the said decision hasn’t become final and executor?
3. Did the CA err in declaring petitioners guilty of holding an illegal strike when circumstances showed that respondents were guilty of an illegal lockout?

1. Was their work stoppage constitutionally protected?
2. Were they illegally locked out by the company?

Held:No, No. Petition dismissed.

1. That petitioners staged a work stoppage on October 24, 1990 in conjunction with the welga ng bayan organized by the labor sector to protest the accelerating prices of oil.
Stoppage of work due to welga ng bayan is in the nature of a general strike, an extended sympathy strike. It affects numerous employers including those who do not have a dispute with their employees regarding their terms and conditions of employment.
Employees who have no labor dispute with their employer but who, on a day they are scheduled to work, refuse to work and instead join a welga ng bayan commit an illegal work stoppage.
Even if petitioners’ joining the welga ng bayan were considered merely as an exercise of their freedom of expression, freedom of assembly or freedom to petition the government for redress of grievances, the exercise of such rights is not absolute. For the protection of other significant state interests such as the "right of enterprises to reasonable returns on investments, and to expansion and growth" enshrined in the 1987 Constitution must also be considered, otherwise, oppression or self-destruction of capital in order to promote the interests of labor would be sanctioned. And it would give imprimatur to workers’ joining demonstrations/rallies even before affording the employer an opportunity to make the necessary arrangements to counteract the implications of the work stoppage on the business, and ignore the novel "principle of shared responsibility between workers and employers" aimed at fostering industrial peace.
Their work stoppage is not protected by the law.
2. They claimed that they were locked out by the company as punishment for joining the strike.
If there was illegal lockout, why, indeed, did not petitioners file a protest with the management or a complaint therefor against respondents? As the Labor Arbiter observed, "[t]he inaction of [petitioners] betrays the weakness of their contention for normally a locked-out union will immediately bring management before the bar of justice.
Even if the petitioners adhered properly to the requirements of a strike, it would still be illegal because they blocked the company entrance. The Labor Code states that "[n]o person engaged in picketing shall … obstruct the free ingress to or egress from the employer’s premises for lawful purposes, or obstruct public thoroughfares.”
In fine, the legality of a strike is determined not only by compliance with its legal formalities but also by the means by which it is carried out.
Petitioners should bear the consequences stipulated under the Labor Code which says:
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
Gold City Integrated Port Service, Inc- regarding the use of the word “may” declared "[t]he law . . . grants the employer the option of declaring a union officer who participated in an illegal strike as having lost his employment." 

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