Social justice is the aim, reason, and justification of labor laws, as aptly summed up by former Supreme Court Justice Cesar Alvero Azucena, Jr.[1]

As the basic tenet of social justice states that “those who have less in life must have more in law,”[2] the 1987 Philippine Constitution mandates the State to afford “full protection to labor.”[3] The directive covers all employees whether they be local or overseas, organized and unorganized.[4] In pursuance thereto, the State is mandated to promote full employment and equality of employment opportunities to all.[5]

To ensure full protection to labor, the State has been tasked to guarantee the rights of all workers to self-organization, collective bargaining and negotiations, and peaceful concerted activities, including the right to strike in accordance with law.[6] It has also been directed to ensure that workers are entitled to security of tenure, humane conditions of work, and a living wage.[7] With respect to the constitutional right to security of tenure, the Supreme Court of the Philippines no less has referred to it as “an act of social justice.”[8]

Rance v. The National Labor Relations Commission
G.R. No. L-68147, 30 June 1988

“It is the policy of the state to assure the right of workers to ‘security of tenure’ (Article XIII, Sec. 3 of the New Constitution, Section 9, Article II of the 1973 Constitution). The guarantee is an act of social justice. When a person has no property, his job may possibly be his only possession or means of livelihood. Therefore, he should be protected against any arbitrary deprivation of his job. Article 280 of the Labor Code has construed security of tenure as meaning that ‘the employer shall not terminate the services of an employee except for a just cause or when authorized by’ the code… Dismissal is not justified for being arbitrary where the workers were denied due process… and a clear denial of due process, or constitutional right must be safeguarded against at all times… This is especially true in the case at bar where there were 125 workers mostly heads or sole breadwinners of their respective families.

Time and again, this Court has reminded employers that while the power to dismiss is a normal prerogative of the employer, the same is not without limitations. The employer is bound to exercise caution in terminating the services of his employees especially so when it is made upon the request of a labor union pursuant to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, as in the instant case. Dismissals must not be arbitrary and capricious. Due process must be observed in dismissing an employee because it affects not only his position but also his means of livelihood. Employers should, therefore, respect and protect the rights of their employees, which include the right to labor”, among others.

“In the case at bar, the scandalous haste with which respondent corporation dismissed 125 employees lends credence to the claim that there was connivance between respondent corporation and respondent Union. It is evident that private respondents were in bad faith in dismissing petitioners. They, the private respondents, are guilty of unfair labor practice.”

The Constitution goes further as to allow labor to participate in policy and decision-making processes affecting their rights and benefits as may be provided by law.[9] This is in line with principle of shared responsibilityby the employer and the employees who both have their respective stakes in the enterprise.[10] While labor has the right to the just share in the fruits of production, the law equally recognizes the right of enterprises to reasonable returns to investments, and to expansion and growth.[11]

Thus, to foster industrial peace, the law prefers the use of voluntary modes in settling labor disputes (e.g. mediation and conciliation), with the State mandated to enforce their mutual compliance in case of a joint compromise agreement.[12]

Best Legal Practices:

Protect and defend against labor complaints – Considering the clear and categorical mandate and policies of the law on labor, the management finds itself in the defensive position in labor disputes. The burden of proof is often placed on the employer. Thus, the management should observe best legal practices to protect, prevent, and defend the business from labor complaints.

Use simple and ordinary language on employment contracts – As employment contracts are construed in favor of labor whenever there is doubt, the management should use simple and ordinary language to avoid any issue on the interpretation thereof. This is an important practice to observe as labor issues are resolved in favor of labor when there is doubt.

All of these constitutional principles and mandates on labor underscores the fact that the contractual relation between the employer and the employee is impressed with public interest, such that labor contracts must yield to the common good.[13] As a result, whenever there is doubt, all labor laws and employment contracts are construed in favor of the safety and decent living of the laborer.[14]

 

– – –

[1] Id at 1.

[2] Felix B. Perez, et al., v. Philippine Telegraph and Telephone Company, et al.,G.R. No. 152048, 07 April 2009, Separate and Dissenting Opinion of Justice Velasco, Jr.

[3] 1987 CONSTITUTION, Paragraph 1, Section 3, Article XIII.

[4] 1987 CONSTITUTION, Paragraph 1, Section 3, Article XIII.

[5] 1987 CONSTITUTION, Paragraph 1, Section 3, Article XIII.

[6] Ibid. Paragraph 2, Section 3, Article XIII.

[7] Ibid. Paragraph 2, Section 3, Article XIII.

[8] Amada Rance, et al., v. The National Labor Relations Commission, et al., G.R. No. L-68147, 30 June 1988.

[9] 1987 CONSTITUTION. Paragraph 2, Section 3, Article XIII.

[10] Ibid. Paragraph 3, Section 3, Article XIII.

[11] Ibid. Paragraph 4, Section 3, Article XIII.

[12] Ibid. Paragraph 3, Section 3, Article XIII.

[13] CIVIL CODE. Article 1700. Employment contracts are subject to special laws, including but not limited to, labor unions, collective bargaining, strikes and lockouts, closed shop, wages, working conditions, hours of labor, and similar subjects (Ibid.).

[14] Ibid. Article 1702.