Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Rizal Labor Union, et.al. v. Rizal Cement Company

Facts: Carlos Santos and 14 other employees of the Rizal Cement, while still members of the Binangonan Labor Union Local (BLUL), formed and organized the Rizal Labor Union (RLU). The company was notified of this. Prior to this, Carlos Santos and Teofines Minguillan, president and secretary, respectively, of the newly-organized RLU, received identical letters from the BLUL, requiring them to explain in 48 hours why they should not be expelled for disloyalty. Although Santos and Minguillan requested for the convocation of a general meeting of the members of the BLUL to explain their side, the 15 organizers of the new union were expelled from their original union. On the same day, it demanded the dismissal of the expelled members from employment, which the company did.

The dismissed employees went to the Court of Industrial Relations charging the Company and the Binangonan Labor Union with unfair labor practices. Said respondents answered the charges by referring to the alleged closed-shop proviso in the subsisting CBA.

Issue: Whether or not the dismissal of the complaining 15 employees was justified.

Held: The resolution of this question hinges on the validity and adequacy of the supposed closed-shop proviso of the CBA. In order that the discharge of an employee pursuant to a closed-shop agreement may be considered justified, it must first be shown that the said agreement is valid. The provisions of the contract relied by respondents read as follows:

The EMPLOYER agrees to have in its employ and to employ only members in good standing of the UNION in all its branches, units, plants, quarries, warehouses, docks, etc. The UNION agrees to furnish at all time the laborers, employees and all technical helps that the EMPLOYER may require. EMPLOYER, however, reserves its right to accept or reject where they fail to meet its requirements. (Article 1, Sec. 5.)

The EMPLOYER agrees not to have in its employ nor to hire any new employee or laborer unless he is a member of good standing of the UNION, and a bona fide holder of a UNION (NWB) card, provided such new employee or laborer meets the qualifications required by the EMPLOYER. (Article VII, Sec. 1-d).

Art. 1 Sec. 5, is applicable to those already on the job at the time the agreement was entered into while Art. VII, Sec. 1-(d) is applicable to those getting employment thereafter.

The aforequoted pertinent provision of the CBA does not prescribe the period within which the employees must remain as members of good standing of the union, and therefore the dismissal of the complainants after they were expelled from the union was unjustified.

In Confederated Sons of Labor vs. Anakan Lumber Company it was held that a proviso in the CBA which reads:

That the UNION shall have the exclusive right and privilege to supply the COMPANY with such laborers, employees and workers as are necessary in the logging, mechanical, etc. ... and that the COMPANY agrees to employ or hire in any of its departments only such person or persons who are members of the UNION.

It does not establish a "closed-shop" agreement, and that inasmuch the above quoted does not provide that employees "must continue to remain members in good standing" of respondent union "to keep their jobs," the CBA between them does not establish a "closed shop," except in a very limited sense, namely, that the laborers' employees and workers engaged by the company after the signing of the agreement must be members of respondent union.

The agreement does not affect the right of the company to retain those already working on or before said date, or those hired, or employed subsequently thereto, while they were members of respondent union, but who, thereafter, resign or are expelled.

In order that an employer may be deemed bound to dismiss employees for non-union membership under a CBA, 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." Referring particularly to the abovequoted Art. II, we note that the same establishes the exclusive right of respondent union to "supply" laborers, etc., and limits the authority of the company to "employ or hire" them.

The laborers, employees and workers hired or employed by the company be members of respondent union at the time of the commencement of the employer- employee relation. Membership in respondent union is not a condition for the continuation of said relation or for the retention of a laborer or employee engaged either before said agreement or while he was a member of said union.

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