Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Brotherhood Labor Unity Movement of the Philippines vs. Zamora, 147 SCRA 49

Facts: Petitioners, worked exclusively at the San Miguel Parola Glass Factory averaging about seven (7) years of service at the time of their termination, worked as "cargadores" or "pahinantes" at the SMC Plant loading, unloading, piling or palleting empty bottles and wooden shells to and from company trucks and warehouses.

The petitioners first reported for work to Superintendent-in-Charge Camahort who issues job orders, were issued gate passes signed by Camahort and were provided by the respondent company with the tools, equipment and paraphernalia used in the loading, unloading, piling and hauling operation.

Work in the glass factory did not necessarily mean a full eight (8) hour day for the petitioners. Work, at times, exceeded the eight (8) hour day and necessitated work on Sundays and holidays. For this, they were neither paid overtime nor compensation for work on Sundays and holidays. Petitioners were paid every ten (10) days according to the number of cartons and wooden shells they were able to load, unload, or pile. The pay check is given to the group leaders for encashment, distribution, and payment to the petitioners in accordance with payrolls prepared by said leaders.

When any of the glass furnaces suffered a breakdown, making a shutdown necessary, the petitioners' work was temporarily suspended. Thereafter, the petitioners would return to work at the glass plant.

In January 1969, the petitioner workers organized and affiliated themselves with the petitioner union and engaged in union activities. They pressed management, airing other grievances such as being paid below the minimum wage law, inhuman treatment, being forced to borrow at usurious rates of interest and to buy raffle tickets, coerced by withholding their salaries, and salary deductions made without their consent. However, their gripes and grievances were not heeded by the respondents.

The petitioner union filed a notice of strike with the Bureau of Labor Relations in connection with the dismissal of some of its members who were allegedly castigated for their union membership. Despite conciliation conferences, San Miguel refused to bargain with the petitioner union alleging that the workers are not their employees.

On February 20, 1969, all the petitioners were dismissed from their jobs and, thereafter, denied entrance to respondent company's glass factory despite their regularly reporting for work. A complaint for illegal dismissal and unfair labor practice was filed by the petitioners.

Repondents moved for the dismissal of the complaint on the grounds that the complainants are not and have never been employees of respondent company but employees of the independent contractor; that respondent company has never had control over the means and methods followed by the independent contractor who enjoyed full authority to hire and control said employees; and that the individual complainants are barred by estoppel from asserting that they are employees of respondent company.

The petitioners strongly argue that there exists an employer-employee relationship between them and the respondent company and that they were dismissed for unionism, an act constituting unfair labor practice.

Issue: Whether or not an employer-employee relationship exists between petitioners-members of the "Brotherhood Labor Unit Movement of the Philippines" and respondent San Miguel Corporation. 

Held:Yes. In determining the existence of an employer-employee relationship, the elements that are generally considered are the following: (a) the selection and engagement of the employee; (b) the payment of wages; (c) the power of dismissal; and (d) the employer's power to control the employee with respect to the means and methods by which the work is to be accomplished. It is the so-called "control test" that is the most important element (Investment Planning Corp. of the Phils. v. The Social Security System, 21 SCRA 924; Mafinco Trading Corp. v. Ople, supra, and Rosario Brothers, Inc. v. Ople, 131 SCRA 72).

Applying the above criteria, the evidence strongly indicates the existence of an employer-employee relationship between petitioner workers and respondent San Miguel Corporation.

Uncontroverted is the fact that for an average of seven (7) years, each of the petitioners had worked continuously and exclusively for the respondent company's shipping and warehousing department. Considering the length of time that the petitioners have worked with the respondent company, there is justification to conclude that they were engaged to perform activities necessary or desirable in the usual business or trade of the respondent, and the petitioners are, therefore regular employees. In fact, despite past shutdowns of the glass plant for repairs, the petitioners, thereafter, promptly returned to their jobs, never having been replaced, or assigned elsewhere until the present controversy arose. The term of the petitioners' employment appears indefinite. The continuity and habituality of petitioners' work bolsters their claim of employee status vis-a-vis respondent company.

Firmly establishing respondent SMC's role as employer is the control exercised by it over the petitioners - that is, control in the means and methods/manner by which petitioners are to go about their work, as well as in disciplinary measures imposed by it.

Because of the nature of the petitioners' work as cargadores or pahinantes, supervision as to the means and manner of performing the same is practically nil. More evident and pronounced is respondent company's right to control in the discipline of petitioners. Documentary evidence presented by the petitioners establish respondent SMC's right to impose disciplinary measures for violations or infractions of its rules and regulations as well as its right to recommend transfers and dismissals of the piece workers. The inter-office memoranda submitted in evidence prove the company's control over the petitioners. That respondent SMC has the power to recommend penalties or dismissal of the piece workers, even as to Abner Bungay who is alleged by SMC to be a representative of the alleged labor contractor, is the strongest indication of respondent company's right of control over the petitioners as direct employer.

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