Friday, March 02, 2012

Radio Communication of the Philippines Inc. vs. Secretary of Labor, [G.R. No. 77959 January 9, 1989]

Facts: On May 4, 1981, petitioner, a domestic corporation engaged in the telecommunications business, filed with the National Wages Council an application for exemption from the coverage of Wage Order No. 1. The application was opposed by respondent United RCPI Communications Labor Association (URCPICLA-FUR), a labor organization affiliated with the Federation of Unions of Rizal (FUR). 

On May 22, 1981, the National Wages Council disapproved said application and ordered petitioner to pay its covered employees the mandatory living allowance of P2.00 daily effective March 22, 1981. 

As early as March 13, 1985, before the aforesaid case was elevated to this Court, respondent union filed a motion for the issuance of a writ of execution, asserting therein its claim to 15% of the total backpay due to all its members as "union service fee" for having successfully prosecuted the latter's claim for payment of wages and for reimbursement of expenses incurred by FUR and prayed for the segregation and remittance of said amount to FUR thru its National President. 

On October 24, 1985, without the knowledge and consent of respondent union, petitioner entered into a compromise agreement with Buklod ng Manggagawa sa RCPI-NFL (BMRCPI-NFL) as the new bargaining agent of oppositors RCPI employees. Thereupon, the parties filed a joint motion praying for the dismissal of the decision of the National Wages Council for it had already been novated by the Compromise Agreement re-defining the rights and obligations of the parties. Respondent Union on November 7, 1985, countered by opposing the motion and alleging that one of the signatories thereof - BMRCPI-NFL is not a party in interest in the case but that it was respondent Union which represented oppositors RCPI employees all the way from the level of the National Wages Council up the Supreme Court. Respondent Union, therefore, claimed that the Compromise Agreement is irregular and invalid, apart from the fact that there was nothing to compromise in the face of a final and executory decision. 

Director Severo M. Pucan issued an Order dated November 25, 1985 awarding to URCPICLA-FUR and FUR 15% of the total backpay of RCPI employees as their union service fees, and directing RCPI to deposit said amount with the cashier of the Regional Office for proper disposition to said awardees. Despite said order, petitioner paid in full the covered employees on November 29, 1985, without deducting the union service fee of 15%. In an order dated May 7, 1986, NCR officer-in-charge found petitioner RCPI and its employees jointly and severally liable for the payment of the 15% union service fee amounting to P427,845.60 to private respondent URCPICLA-FUR and consequently ordered the garnishment of petitioner's bank account to enforce said claim. 

Secretary of Labor and Employment issued an order on August 18, 1986 modifying the order appealed from by holding petitioner solely liable to respondent union for 10% of the awarded amounts as attorney's fees. 

Issue: Whether or not public respondents acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction in holding the petitioner solely liable for "union service fee” to respondent URCPICLA-FUR. 

Held: No. Attorney's fee due the oppositor is chargeable against RCPI. The defaulting employer or government agency remains liable for attorney's fees because it compelled the complainant to employ the services of counsel by unjustly refusing to recognize the validity of the claim. (Cristobal vs. ECC) 

It is undisputed that oppositor (private respondent herein) was the counsel on record of the RCPI employees in their claim for EC0LA under Wage Order No. 1 since the inception of the proceedings at the National Wages Council up to the Supreme Court. It had, therefore, a valid claim for attorney's fee which it called union service fee. 

As is evident in the compromise agreement, petitioner was bound to pay only 30% of the amount due each employee on November 30, 1985, while the balance of 70% would still be the subject of renegotiation by the parties. Yet, despite such conditions beneficial to it, petitioner paid in full the backpay of its employees on November 29, 1985, ignoring the service fee due the private respondent. Worse, petitioner supposedly paid to one Atty. Rodolfo M. Capocyan the 10% fee that properly pertained to herein private respondent, an unjustified and baffling diversion of funds. 

Finally, petitioner cannot invoke the lack of an individual written authorization from the employees as a shield for its fraudulent refusal to pay the service fee of private respondent. Be that as it may, the lack thereof was remedied and supplied by the execution of the compromise agreement whereby the employees, expressly approved the 10% deduction and held petitioner RCPI free from any claim, suit or complaint arising from the deduction thereof. When petitioner was thereafter again ordered to pay the 10% fees to respondent union, it no longer had any legal basis or subterfuge for refusing to pay the latter. 

We agree that the Labor Code in requiring an individual written authorization as a prerequisite to wage deductions seeks to protect the employee against unwarranted practices that would diminish his compensation without his knowledge and consent. However, for all intents and purposes, the deductions required of the petitioner and the employees do not run counter to the express mandate of the law since the same are not unwarranted or without their knowledge and consent. Also, the deductions for the union service fee in question are authorized by law and do not require individual check-off authorizations. 

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