Ramirez vs. Polyson Industries, Inc.
G.R. No. 207898, October 19, 2016
Respondents received a notice of hearing from the DOLE with respect to the petition for certification election filed by Obrero Pilipino (Obrero), the union of the employees of Polyson. Polyson, through counsel and management representative, met with the officers of Obrero, led by the union president, herein petitioner Ramirez. Obrero asked that it be voluntarily recognized by Polyson as the exclusive bargaining agent of the rank-and-file employees of Polyson, but the latter refused and opted for a certification election.
Furious at such refusal, the Obrero officers threatened the management that the union will show its collective strength in the coming days. Polyson received a rush order from one of its clients for the production of 100,000 pieces of plastic bags. The management of Polyson informed the operators of its Cutting Section that they would be needing workers to work overtime because of the said order.
Based on the usual practice of the company, those who intend to perform overtime work were expected to sign the “time sheet” indicating their willingness to work after their shift. The supervisors approached the operators but were told that they would be unable to work overtime because they have other commitments after their shift; the supervisors then requested that the operators set aside their time for the following day to work beyond their regular shift.
Five (5) operators indicated their desire to work overtime. However, after their regular shift, three of the five workers did not work overtime which resulted in the delay in delivery of the client’s order and eventually resulted in the cancellation of the said order by reason of such delay. When management asked the workers, who initially manifested their desire to work overtime, to indicate in the time sheet the reason for their failure to do so, two of the three workers, namely, Leuland Visca (Visca) and Samuel Tuting (Tuting) gave the same reason, to wit: “Ayaw nila/ng iba na mag-OT [overtime] ako”; the management then conducted an investigation and a hearing where Visca affirmed his previous claim that petitioners were the ones who pressured him to desist from rendering overtime work.
On even date, Tuting executed a written statement claiming that herein petitioners induced or threatened them not to work overtime. The management then gave notices to petitioners asking them to explain why no disciplinary action would be taken against them. Petitioners submitted their respective explanations to the management denying their liability; after evaluation, the management informed petitioners that it has decided to terminate petitioners’ employment on the ground that they instigated an illegal concerted activity resulting in losses to the company.
Petitioners denied the allegations of Polyson contending that they were terminated from their employment not because they induced or threatened their co-employees not to render overtime work but because they established a union which sought to become the exclusive bargaining agent of the rank-and-file employees of Polyson. That their termination was undertaken without affording them substantive and procedural due process and that Polyson is guilty of unfair labor practice.
Subsequently, Obrero filed a Notice of Strike with the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) which was predicated on various grounds, among which was the alleged illegal dismissal of herein petitioners. Thereafter, the DOLE Secretary certified the labor dispute to the NLRC for immediate compulsory arbitration where the parties were required to maintain the status quo, in accordance with Article 263(g) of the Labor Code.
Acting on this certified case, the NLRC rendered its Decision finding petitioners illegally dismissed from their employment and ordering their reinstatement to their former positions without loss of seniority rights and other privileges and benefits as well as to pay petitioners their backwages and attorney’s fees.
The NLRC ruled that, for failure of Polyson to submit in evidence petitioners’ supposed written explanations in answer to the company’s Notice to Explain, Polyson failed to discharge its burden of proving that petitioners were indeed terminated for a valid cause and in accordance with due process. Polyson then filed a Motion for Reconsideration submitting, for the consideration of the NLRC, the subject written explanations of petitioners and reiterating their position that petitioners were, indeed, validly dismissed.
The NLRC issued a Resolution granting Polyson’s Motion for Reconsideration, thereby reversing and setting aside its December 26, 2011 Decision and rendering a new judgment which declared petitioners as validly dismissed. In the said Resolution, the NLRC found that Polyson was able to present sufficient evidence to establish that petitioners’ termination from employment was for a valid cause, as they were found guilty of inducing or threatening their co-employees not to render overtime work, and that petitioners’ dismissal was in conformity with due process requirements.
Aggrieved by the above Resolution, petitioners filed a special civil action for certiorari with the CA assailing the said Resolution and praying for the reinstatement of the December 26, 2011 Decision of the NLRC.
The CA denied petitioners’ petition for certiorari. The CA ruled that petitioners’ defense, which is anchored primarily on their denial of the allegations of Polyson, cannot overcome the categorical statements of Polyson’s witnesses who identified petitioners as the persons who induced or threatened them not to render overtime work. Petitioners filed a Motion for Reconsideration, but the CA denied. Hence, the petition for review on certiorari.
Whether or not the dismissal due to instigation not to render overtime work or to slowdown work is valid
Craft disciplinary notices with ease and validity: HR Forms, Notices, and Contracts
The SC ruled in favor of Polyson.
Petitioners question the credibility of Tuting and Visca’s claims (that they were induced by petitioners not to render overtime) contending that these are self-serving and that they were merely used by the management to manufacture evidence against them. However, there is nothing on record to indicate any ulterior motive on the part of the witnesses to fabricate their claim that petitioners were the ones who threatened or induced them not to work overtime. Absent convincing evidence showing any cogent reason why a witness should testify falsely, his testimony may be accorded full faith and credit.
Moreover, petitioners’ defense consists of mere denials and negative assertions. As between the affirmative assertions of unbiased witnesses and a general denial and negative assertions on the part of petitioners, weight must be accorded to the affirmative assertions.
The SC held that petitioners are guilty of instigating their co-employees to commit slowdown, an inherently and essentially illegal activity even in the absence of a no-strike clause in a collective bargaining contract, or statute or rule. Jurisprudence defines a slowdown as follows: a “strike on the installment plan;” as a willful reduction in the rate of work by concerted action of workers for the purpose of restricting the output of the employer, in relation to a labor dispute; as an activity by which workers, without a complete stoppage of work, retard production or their performance of duties and functions to compel management to grant their demands.
The Court is not persuaded by petitioners’ contention that they are not guilty of “illegal concerted activity” as they claim that this term contemplates a “careful planning of a considerable number of participants to insure that the desired result is attained.” Nothing in the law requires that a slowdown be carefully planned and that it be participated in by a large number of workers. The essence of this kind of strike is that the workers do not quit their work but simply reduce the rate of work in order to restrict the output or delay the production of the employer.
It has been held that while a cessation of work by the concerted action of a large number of employees may more easily accomplish the object of the work stoppage than if it is by one person, there is, in fact no fundamental difference in the principle involved as far as the number of persons involved is concerned, and thus, if the act is the same, and the purpose to be accomplished is the same, there is a strike, whether one or more than one have ceased to work.
As to petitioners’ liability, the second paragraph of Article 264(a) of the Labor Code provides: 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.