Monday, December 05, 2011

Solid Bank Corp. Ernesto U. Gamier, et al. and Solid Bank Corp., et al. vs. Solid Bank Union and its Dismissed Officers and Members, et al. G.R. No. 159460 and G.R. No. 159461, November 15, 2010.

Dismissal; illegal strike; distinction between union officers and mere members. The liabilities of individuals who participate in an illegal strike must be determined under Article 264 (a) of the Labor Code which makes a distinction between union officers and mere members. The law grants the employer the option of declaring a union officer who knowingly participated in an illegal strike as having lost his employment. However, a worker merely participating in an illegal strike may not be terminated from employment if he does not commit illegal acts during a strike. Hence, with respect to respondents who are union officers, their termination by petitioners is valid. Being fully aware that the proceedings before the Secretary of Labor were still pending as in fact they filed a motion for reconsideration, they cannot invoke good faith as a defense. For the rest of the individual respondents who are union members, they cannot be terminated for mere participation in the illegal strike. 

Illegal strike. Under Article 264 (a) of the Labor Code, as amended, a strike that is undertaken despite the issuance by the Secretary of Labor of an assumption order and/or certification is illegal. So is a declaration of a strike during the pendency of cases involving the same grounds for the strike. In the present case, there is no dispute that when respondents conducted their mass actions on April 3 to 6, 2000, the proceedings before the Secretary of Labor were still pending as both parties filed motions for reconsideration of the March 24, 2000 Order. Clearly, respondents knowingly violated the aforesaid provision by holding a strike in the guise of mass demonstration. 

Illegal strike; proof of illegal acts. To justify termination of a union member who participated in an illegal strike, there must be proof that he or she committed illegal acts during a strike. Substantial evidence available under the attendant circumstances, which may justify the imposition of the penalty of dismissal, may suffice. Petitioners have not adduced evidence on such illegal acts committed by each of the individual respondents who are union members. The dismissal of respondent-union members are therefore unjustified in the absence of a clear showing that they committed specific illegal acts during the mass actions and concerted work boycott.. 

Illegal dismissal; backwages. The award of backwages is a legal consequence of a finding of illegal dismissal. However, assuming that respondent-union members have indeed reported back to work at the end of the concerted mass actions but were soon terminated by petitioners who found their explanation unsatisfactory, they are not entitled to backwages in view of the illegality of the said strike. Under the circumstances, respondents’ reinstatement without backwages suffices for the appropriate relief. 

Illegal dismissal; separation pay in lieu of reinstatement. Since reinstatement is no longer possible given the lapse of considerable time from the occurrence of the strike, not to mention the fact that Solidbank had long ceased its banking operations, the award of separation pay of one (1) month salary for each year of service, in lieu of reinstatement, is in order. 

Strike; definition. Article 212 of the Labor Code, as amended, defines strike as any temporary stoppage of work by the concerted action of employees as a result of an industrial or labor dispute. A labor dispute includes any controversy or matter concerning terms and conditions of employment or the association or representation of persons in negotiating, fixing, maintaining, changing or arranging the terms and conditions of employment, regardless of whether or not the disputants stand in the proximate relation of employers and employees. The term “strike” shall also include slowdowns, mass leaves, sitdowns, attempts to damage, destroy or sabotage plant equipment and facilities and similar activities. In the instant case, about 712 employees absented themselves from work in a concerted fashion for three continuous days. Considering that these mass actions stemmed from a bargaining deadlock and an order of assumption of jurisdiction had already been issued by the Secretary of Labor to avert an impending strike, all the elements of strike are evident in the Union-instigated mass actions. Solid Bank Corp. Ernesto U. Gamier, et al. and Solid Bank Corp., et al. vs. Solid Bank Union and its Dismissed Officers and Members, et al. G.R. No. 159460 and G.R. No. 159461, November 15, 2010.

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