G.R. No. 117169 PhilTread Workers Union, et al. v. Confesor, et al. March 12, 1997

Facts:

Petitioner PTWU filed a notice of strike on grounds of unfair labor practice, more specifically union busting and violation of CBA. On the other hand, private respondent Philtread Tire and Rubber Corporation filed a notice of lockout. It also filed a petition to declare illegal the work slowdowns staged by the petitioner Union. Both cases were then consolidated. Several conciliation meetings were conducted but the parties failed to settle their dispute.

At some time, the National Labor Relations Commission declared the slowdowns illegal. Thereafter, private respondent corporation requested the Secretary of Labor to assume jurisdiction over the labor dispute. Secretary Confesor then issued an order, which, among other things, certified the dispute for compulsory arbitration. Petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration of the order but the same was denied for lack of merit.

Petitioners questioned the constitutionality of Article 263 (g) of the Labor Code on the ground that the Secretary of Labor’s intervention violates the workers’ constitutional right to strike, and alleged that he acted with grave abuse of discretion in issuing the order since his power to certify a dispute for compulsory arbitration is strictly restricted to cases involving industries that are indispensable to national interest.

Issues:

  1. Whether or not Article 263 (g) of the Labor Code is unconstitutional; and
  2. Whether or not public respondent acted with grave abuse of discretion in issuing the questioned order.

Ruling:

  1. No. Article 263 (g) of the Labor Code does not interfere with the workers’ right to strike but merely regulates it, when in the exercise of such right, national interests will be affected. The rights granted by the Constitution are not absolute. They are still subject to control and limitation to ensure that they are not exercised arbitrarily. The interests of both the employers and employees are intended to be protected and not one of them is given undue preference. The assumption of the Secretary of Labor of jurisdiction is in the nature of police power measure. This is done for the promotion of the common good considering that a prolonged strike or lockout can be inimical to the national economy. The Secretary of Labor acts to maintain industrial peace. As articulated in International Pharmaceuticals, Inc. vs. Secretary of Labor, it is fundamental that a statute is to be read in a manner that would breathe life into it, rather than defeat it.
  2. No. Grave abuse of discretion implies capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment. The respondent company is indispensable to national interest considering that the tire industry has already been liberalized. Philtread supplies 22% of the tire products in the country. As observed by the Secretary of Labor, “the Company is one of the tire manufacturers in the country employing more or less 700 workers. Any work disruption thereat, as a result of a labor dispute will certainly prejudice the employment and livelihood of its workers and their dependents. Furthermore, the labor dispute may lead to the possible closure of the Company and loss of employment to hundreds of its workers. This will definitely aggravate the already worsening unemployment situation in the country and discourage foreign and domestic investors from further investing in the country.”
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