Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Salinas vs. NLRC

Facts: Alejandro Alonzo had been employed with AG & P (Atlantic Gulf and Pacific Co., Manila Inc) in the several construction projects of the latter from 1982 to 1989, in the course of which he essentially performed the same job, initially as a laborer, and later as bulk cement operator, bulk cement plant/carrier operator, and crane driver. Under similar circumstances, petitioner Avelino Cortez had been employed with AG & P from 1979 to 1988 as carpenter/forklift operator; petitioner Armando Samulde served as lubeman/stationary operator from 1982 to 1989; while petitioner Aurelio Salinas, Jr., used to work as carpenter/finishing carpenter from 1983 to 1988. 

They thereafter filed a complaint for illegal dismissal before the Labor Arbiter. However, the Labor Arbiter dismissed their complaint on the ground the petitioners are project employees, and that their work relation relative to termination is governed by Policy Instructions No. 20. 

The NLRC affirmed this decision. 

The petitioners appealed to the Supreme Court saying that the fact the termination of their contracts was not submitted to the Public Employment Office (as required by Policy Instruction No. 20) signifies that they are regular employees. 

Issue: Whether or not the petitioners were project employees. 

Held: NO. The Court agrees with petitioners in that it likewise rules that failure to report the termination to Public Employment Office is a clear indication that petitioners were not and are not project employees. Policy Instruction No. 20 required that the employer company to report to the nearest Public Employment Office the fact of termination of project employee as a result of the completion of the project or any phase thereof, in which he is employed. Recognizing its significance, Department Order No. 19 issued on April 1, 1993, made provisions therefore, and considered it as one of the "indicators" that a worker is a project employee. 

The Court also said that “it is basic and irrefragable rule that in carrying out and interpreting the provisions of the Labor Code and its implementing regulations, the workingman's welfare should be the primordial and paramount consideration. The interpretation herein made gives meaning and substance to the liberal and compassionate spirit of the law enunciated in Article 4 of Labor Code that "all doubts in the implementation and interpretation of the provisions of the Labor Code including its implementing rules and regulations shall be resolved in favor of labor". 

It is beyond cavil that petitioners had been providing the respondent corporation with continuous and uninterrupted services, except for a day or so gap in their successive employment contracts. Their contracts had been renewed several times, with the total length of their services ranging from five (5) to nine (9) years. Throughout the duration of their contracts, they had been performing the same kinds of work (e.g., as lubeman, bulk cement operator and carpenter), which were usually necessary and desirable in the construction business of AG & P, its usual trade or business.

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