Thursday, February 09, 2012

Marcopper Mining Corporation vs. NLRC, 255 SCRA 322

Facts: On August 23, 1984, Marcopper Mining Corporation (a corporation duly organized and existing under the laws of the Philippines, engaged in the business of mineral prospecting, exploration and extraction) and private respondent NAMAWUMIF (a labor federation duly organized and registered with the Department of Labor and Employment, to which the Marcopper Employees Union is affiliated) entered into a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) effective from May 1, 1984 until April 30, 1987. On July 25, 1986, prior to the expiration of the aforestated Agreement, the petitioner and private respondent executed a Memorandum of Agreement wherein the terms of the CBA, specifically on matters of wage increase and facilities allowance were modified. On June 1, 1987, Executive Order (E.O.) No. 178 was promulgated mandating the integration of the cost of living allowance under Wage Orders Nos. 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 into the basic wage of workers, its effectivity retroactive to May 1, 1987. Consequently, the basic wage rate of petitioner's laborers categorized as non-agricultural workers was increased by P9.00 per day. Furthermore, the petitioner implemented the second five percent (5%) wage increase due on the same date and thereafter added the integrated COLA. However, the private respondent assailed the manner in which the second wage increase was effected. It argued that the COLA should first be integrated into the basic wage before the 5% wage increase is computed.

Issue: Whether or not the CBA should complied with.

Held: Yes. The principle that the CBA is the law between the contracting parties stands strong and true. However, the present controversy involves not merely an interpretation of CBA provisions. More importantly, it requires a determination of the effect of an executive order on the terms and the conditions of the CBA. This is, and should be, the focus of the instant case.

It is unnecessary to delve too much on the intention of the parties as to what they allegedly meant by the term "basic wage" at the time the CBA and MOA were executed because there is no question that as of May 1, 1987, as mandated by E.O. No. 178, the basic wage of workers, or the statutory minimum wage, was increased with the integration of the COLA. As of said date, then, the term "basic wage" includes the COLA. This is what the law ordains and to which the collective bargaining agreement of the parties must conform.

Petitioner's arguments eventually lose steam in the light of the fact that compliance with the law is mandatory and beyond contractual stipulation by and between the parties; thus, whether or not petitioner intended the basic wage to include the COLA becomes immaterial. There is evidently nothing to construe and to interpret because the law is clear and unambiguous. Sadly for petitioner, said law, by some uncanny coincidence, retroactively took effect on the same date the CBA increase became effective. Therefore, there cannot be any doubt that the computation of the CBA increase on the basis of the "integrated" wage does not constitute a violation of the CBA. While the terms and conditions of the CBA constitute the law between the parties, it isn’t an ordinary contract to which is applied the principles of law governing ordinary contracts. A CBA, as a labor contract within the contemplation of Article 1700 of the Civil Code of the Philippines which governs the relations between labor and capital, is not merely contractual in nature but impressed with public interest, hence, it must yield to the common good. As such, it must be construed liberally rather than narrowly and technically, and the courts must place a practical and realistic construction upon it, giving due consideration to the context in which it is negotiated and purpose which it is intended to serve.

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