Thursday, February 23, 2012

Guijarno vs. CIR

Facts: Nineteen employees were dismissed by Central Santos Lopez Co., Inc upon their expulsion from United Sugar Workers Union-ILO. The sugar company assumed that it had to dismiss the workers by virtue of the closed-shop provision in the then existing collective bargaining agreement which states that laborers who are no longer members of good standing in the union may be dismissed by the respondent company if their dismissal is sought by the union”. It argued that it has never committed any acts of unfair labor practice since the union sought the dismissal of the said workers; that it has a solemn obligation to comply with the terms and conditions of the contract; and that a closed-shop agreement is sanctioned under this jurisdiction for such kind of agreement is expressly allowed under the provisions of Republic Act 875 known as the Industrial Peace Act and the dismissal of complainants is merely an exercise of a right allowed by said law. It was established that the terminated workers were employed long before the collective bargaining contract has been entered into. The lower courts held that the dismissal was justifiable under the closed-shop provision of the collective bargaining agreement. Hence, this petition for review. 

Issue: Whether or nor a closed-shop provision in a collective bargaining contract is retroactive 

Held: NO. In Confederated Sons of Labor v. Anakan Lumber Co., it was said that "In order that an employer may be deemed bound, under a collective bargaining agreement, to dismiss employees for non-union membership, the stipulation to this effect must be so clear and unequivocal as to leave no room for doubt thereon. An undertaking of this nature is so harsh that it must be strictly construed, and doubts must be resolved against the existence of "closed shop"." Furthermore, it was stated in Freeman Shirt Manufacturing v. Court of Industrial Relations that "The closed-shop agreement authorized under sec. 4, subsec. a(4) of the Industrial Peace Act applies to persons to be hired or to employees who are not yet members of any labor organization. It is inapplicable to those already in the service who are members of another union. To hold otherwise, i. e., that the employees in a company who are members of a minority union may be compelled to disaffiliate from their union and join the majority or contracting union, would render nugatory the right of all employees to self-organization and to form, join or assist labor organizations of their own choosing, a right guaranteed by the Industrial Peace Act as well as by the Constitution." 

According to the Court, the creation of labor unions is a means of assuring that fundamental constitutional objectives such as the protection of labor (full employment and equality in employment, ensure equal work opportunities regardless of sex, race, or creed, and regulate the relations between workers and employers) and the promotion of social justice (dignity, welfare, and security of all the people) would be achieved. It is the instrumentality through which an individual laborer who is helpless as against a powerful employer may, through concerted effort and activity, achieve the goal of economic well-being. That is the philosophy underlying the Industrial Peace Act. For, rightly has it been said that workers unorganized are weak; workers organized are strong. Necessarily then, they join labor unions. To further increase the effectiveness of such organizations, a closed-shop has been allowed. It could happen, though, that such a stipulation which assures further weight to a labor union at the bargaining table could be utilized against minority groups or individual members thereof. There are indications that such a deplorable situation did so manifest itself here. The lower courts were not sufficiently alert to such a danger. What is worse, it paid no heed to the controlling doctrine which is merely a recognition of a basic fact in life, namely, that power in a collectivity could be the means of crushing opposition and stifling the voices of those who are in dissent. The right to join others of like persuasion is indeed valuable. An individual by himself may feel inadequate to meet the exigencies of life or even to express his personality without the right to association being vitalized. It could happen though that whatever group may be in control of the organization may simply ignore his most-cherished desires and treat him as if he counts for naught. The antagonism between him and the group becomes marked. Dissatisfaction if given expression may be labeled disloyalty. In the labor field, the union under such circumstances may no longer be a haven of refuge, but indeed as much of a potential foe as management itself.

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