Labor Standards

Right to self-organization

1. Summary

▪ The right to self-organization includes the right to form, join or assist labor organizations for the purpose of collective bargaining through representatives of their own choosing and to engage in lawful concerted activities for the same purpose for their mutual aid and protection.

▪ The right to self-organization is a constitutional right.

▪ There are limitations to the right to self-organization.

2. Concept

The right to self-organization includes the right to form, join or assist labor organizations for the purpose of collective bargaining through representatives of their own choosing and to engage in lawful concerted activities for the same purpose for their mutual aid and protection. This is in line with the policy of the State to foster the free and voluntary organization of a strong and united labor movement as well as to make sure that workers participate in policy and decision-making processes affecting their rights, duties and welfare. (Samahan ng Manggagawa sa Hanjin Shipyard v. Bureau of Labor Relations, G. R. No. 211145, 14 October 2015)

a. Legal basis

Expressed in the highest law of the land is the right of all workers to self-organization. (Samahan ng Manggagawa sa Hanjin Shipyard v. Bureau of Labor Relations, G. R. No. 211145, 14 October 2015)

1) 1987 Constitution

Section 3, Article XIII of the 1987 Constitution states:

Section 3. The State shall afford full protection to labor, local and overseas, organized and unorganized, and promote full employment and equality of employment opportunities for all. It shall 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. x x x

And Section 8, Article III of the 1987 Constitution also states:

Section 8. The right of the people, including those employed in the public and private sectors, to form unions, associations, or societies for purposes not contrary to law shall not be abridged.

2) P.D. 442, The Labor Code

In relation thereto, Article 3 of the Labor Code provides:

Article 3. Declaration of basic policy. The State shall afford protection to labor, promote full employment, ensure equal work opportunities regardless of sex, race or creed and regulate the relations between workers and employers. The State shall assure the rights of workers to self-organization, collective bargaining, security of tenure, and just and humane conditions of work.

Title V of the Labor Code states:

Art. 253. Coverage and Employees’ Right to Self-Organization. – All persons employed in commercial, industrial and agricultural enterprises and in religious, charitable, medical, or educational institutions, whether operating for profit or not, shall have the right to self-organization and to form, join, or assist labor organizations of their own choosing for purposes of collective bargaining. Ambulant, intermittent and itinerant workers, self-employed people, rural workers and those without any definite employers may form labor organizations for their mutual aid and protection.

DOLE Department Order (D. 0.) No. 40-03, Series of 2003 states:

RULE II
COVERAGE OF THE RIGHT TO SELF-ORGANIZATION
Section 1. Policy. - It is the policy of the State to promote the free and responsible exercise of the right to self-organization through the establishment of a simplified mechanism for the speedy registration of labor unions and workers associations, determination of representation status and resolution of inter/intra-union and other related labor relations disputes. Only legitimate or registered labor unions shall have the right to represent their members for collective bargaining and other purposes. Workers' associations shall have the right to represent their members for purposes other than collective bargaining.
Section 2. Who may join labor unions and workers' associations. - All persons employed in commercial, industrial and agricultural enterprises, including employees of government owned or controlled corporations without original charters established under the Corporation Code, as well as employees of religious, charitable, medical or educational institutions whether operating for profit or not, shall have the right to self-organization and to form, join or assist labor unions for purposes of collective bargaining: provided, however, that supervisory employees shall not be eligible for membership in a labor union of the rank-and-file employees but may form, join or assist separate labor unions of their own. Managerial employees shall not be eligible to form, join or assist any labor unions for purposes of collective bargaining. Alien employees with valid working permits issued by the Department may exercise the right to self-organization and join or assist labor unions for purposes of collective bargaining if they are nationals of a country which grants the same or similar rights to Filipino workers, as certified by the Department of Foreign Affairs.
For purposes of this section, any employee, whether employed for a definite period or not, shall beginning on the first day of his/her service, be eligible for membership in any labor organization.

b. Two notions

The right to form a union or association or to self-organization comprehends two notions, to wit:

1) The liberty or freedom, that is, the absence of restraint which guarantees that the employee may act for himself without being prevented by law; and,

2) The power, by virtue of which an employee may, as he pleases, join or refrain from joining an association. (Samahan ng Manggagawa sa Hanjin Shipyard v. Bureau of Labor Relations, G. R. No. 211145, 14 October 2015)

c. Connotes but is not limited to unionism

More often than not, the right to self-organization connotes unionism. Workers, however, can also form and join a workers’ association as well as labor-management councils (LMC). (Samahan ng Manggagawa sa Hanjin Shipyard v. Bureau of Labor Relations, G. R. No. 211145, 14 October 2015)

The right to self-organization is not limited to unionism. Workers may also form or join an association for mutual aid and protection and for other legitimate purposes. (Samahan ng Manggagawa sa Hanjin Shipyard v. Bureau of Labor Relations, G. R. No. 211145, 14 October 2015)

2. Union v. Workers Association

Workers may form, join, or assist in a union or an association in line with their constitutional right to self-organization.

a. Right to choose belongs to workers

The right to form or join a labor organization necessarily includes the right to refuse or refrain from exercising the said right. It is self-evident that just as no one should be denied the exercise of a right granted by law, so also, no one should be compelled to exercise such a conferred right. Also inherent in the right to self-organization is the right to choose whether to form a union for purposes of collective bargaining or a workers’ association for purposes of providing mutual aid and protection. (Samahan ng Manggagawa sa Hanjin Shipyard v. Bureau of Labor Relations, supra.)

A cursory reading of the law demonstrates that a common element between unionism and the formation of LMCs is the existence of an employer-employee relationship. Where neither party is an employer nor an employee of the other, no duty to bargain collectively would exist. In the same manner, expressed in Article 255 (now 261) is the requirement that such workers be employed in the establishment before they can participate in policy and decision making processes. (Ibid.)

In contrast, the existence of employer-employee relationship is not mandatory in the formation of workers’ association. What the law simply requires is that the members of the workers’ association, at the very least, share the same interest. The very definition of a workers’ association speaks of “mutual aid and protection.” (Ibid.)

3. Limits of right to self-organization

a. Government officers and employees

The Labor Code states:

ART. 254. [244] Right of Employees in the Public Service. Employees of government corporations established under the Corporation Code shall have the right to organize and to bargain collectively with their respective employers. All other employees in the civil service shall have the right to form associations for purposes not contrary to law.

b. Managerial employees

The Labor Code states:

ART. 255. [245] Ineligibility of Managerial Employees to Join any Labor Organization; Right of Supervisory Employees. Managerial employees are not eligible to join, assist or form any labor organization. Supervisory employees shall not be eligible for membership in the collective bargaining unit of the rank-and-file employees but may join, assist or form separate collective bargaining units and/or legitimate labor organizations of their own. The rank and file union and the supervisors’ union operating within the same establishment may join the same federation or national union.

The right to self-organization, however, is subject to certain limitations as provided by law. For instance, the Labor Code specifically disallows managerial employees from joining, assisting or forming any labor union. Meanwhile, supervisory employees, while eligible for membership in labor organizations, are proscribed from joining the collective bargaining unit of the rank and file employees.54 Even government employees have the right to self-organization. It is not, however, regarded as existing or available for purposes of collective bargaining, but simply for the furtherance and protection of their interests. (Samahan ng Manggagawa sa Hanjin Shipyard v. Bureau of Labor Relations, supra.)

The Court disagrees. There is no provision in the Labor Code that states that employees with definite employers may form, join or assist unions only. (Ibid.)

The right to form a workers’ association is not exclusive to ambulant, intermittent and itinerant workers. The option to form or join a union or a workers’ association lies with the workers themselves, and whether they have definite employers or not. (Ibid.)

c. Supervisory employees

As provided in Article 255 of the Labor Code, supervisor y employees are not allowed to join the collective bargaining unit of the rank-and-file employees. However, supervisory employees may join, assist or form a separate collective bargaining unit and/or labor organization of their own – or composed of supervisory employees only;

c. Confidential employees

1) Concept

Confidential employees are those who (1) assist or act in a confidential capacity, (2) to persons who formulate, determine, and effectuate management policies in the field of labor relations. The two criteria are cumulative, and both must be met if an employee is to be considered a confidential employee — that is, the confidential relationship must exist between the employee and his supervisor, and the supervisor must handle the prescribed responsibilities relating to labor relations. (San Miguel Corporation Supervisors and Exempt Union v. Laguesma, G.R. No. 110399, 15 August 1997)

A confidential employee is one entrusted with confidence on delicate, or with the custody, handling or care and protection of the employer’s property. Confidential employees, such as accounting personnel, should be excluded from the bargaining unit, as their access to confidential information may become the source of undue advantage. However, such fact does not apply to the position of Payroll Master and the whole gamut of employees who has access to salary and compensation data. The position of Payroll Master does not involve dealing with confidential labor relations information in the course of the performance of his functions. Since the nature of his work does not pertain to company rules and regulations and confidential labor relations, it follows that he cannot be excluded from the subject bargaining unit. (San Miguel Foods, Incorporated v. San Miguel Corporation Supervisors, supra.)

2) Exclusion via doctrine of necessary implication

Art. 245 of the Labor Code11 does not directly prohibit confidential employees from engaging in union activities. However, under the doctrine of necessary implication, the disqualification of managerial employees equally applies to confidential employees. The confidential-employee rule justifies exclusion of confidential employees because in the normal course of their duties they become aware of management policies relating to labor relations. (Sugbuanon Rural Bank, Inc. v. Laguesma, G.R. No. 116194, 02 February 2000)

Corollarily, although the Labor Code limits the ineligibility to join, form and assist any labor organization to managerial employees, jurisprudence has extended this prohibition to confidential employees or those who by reason of their positions or nature of work are required to assist or act in a fiduciary manner to managerial employees and, hence, are likewise privy to sensitive and highly confidential records. Confidential employees are thus excluded from the rank-and-file bargaining unit. (San Miguel Foods, Incorporated v. San Miguel Corporation Supervisors, G.R. No. 146206, 01 August 2011)

Confidential employees, by the very nature of their functions, assist and act in a confidential capacity to, or have access to confidential matters of, persons who exercise managerial functions in the field of labor relations. Therefore, the rationale behind the ineligibility of managerial employees to form, assist or join a labor union was held equally applicable to them. (San Miguel Corporation Supervisors and Exempt Union v. Laguesma, G.R. No. 110399, 15 August 1997)

3) Rationale

The rationale for their separate category and disqualification to join any labor organization is similar to the inhibition for managerial employees, because if allowed to be affiliated with a union, the latter might not be assured of their loyalty in view of evident conflict of interests and the union can also become company-denominated with the presence of managerial employees in the union membership. Having access to confidential information, confidential employees may also become the source of undue advantage. Said employees may act as a spy or spies of either party to a collective bargaining agreement. (San Miguel Foods, Incorporated v. San Miguel Corporation Supervisors, supra.)

4) Confidential employee rule

The exclusion from bargaining units of employees who, in the normal course of their duties, become aware of management policies relating to labor relations is a principal objective sought to be accomplished by the “confidential employee rule.” The broad rationale behind this rule is that employees should not be placed in a position involving a potential conflict of interests. “Management should not be required to handle labor relations matters through employees who are represented by the union with which the company is required to deal and who in the normal performance of their duties may obtain advance information of the company’s position with regard to contract negotiations, the disposition of grievances, or other labor relations matters.” (San Miguel Corporation Supervisors and Exempt Union v. Laguesma, supra.)

4) Element on need to use labor relations information

An important element of the “confidential employee rule” is the employee’s need to use labor relations information. Thus, in determining the confidentiality of certain employees, a key question frequently considered is the employee’s necessary access to confidential labor relations information. (Ibid.)

It must be stressed, however, that when the employee does not have access to confidential labor relations information, there is no legal prohibition against confidential employees from forming, assisting, or joining a union. (Sugbuanon Rural Bank, Inc. v. Laguesma, G.R. No. 116194, 02 February 2000)

4. Non-abridgment of right to self-organization

It shall be unlawful for any person to restrain, coerce, discriminate against or unduly interfere with employees and workers in their exercise of the right to self-organization. Such right shall include the right to form, join, or assist labor organizations for the purpose of collective bargaining through representatives of their own choosing and to engage in lawful concerted activities for the same purpose for their mutual aid and protection, subject to the provisions of Article 264 of this Code.(Article 266, P.D. 442, Labor Code)

4. No court injunction

No temporary or permanent injunction or restraining order in any case involving or growing out of labor disputes shall be issued by any court or other entity, except as otherwise provided in Articles 218 and 264 of this Code. (Article 266, P.D. 442, Ibid.)

References

Presidential Decree No. 442, Labor Code of the Philippines

DOLE Department Order No. 40, Series of 2003

DOLE Department Order No. 40-A-I, Series of 2003

DOLE Department Order No. 40-B, Series of 2003

DOLE Department Order No. 40-C, Series of 2004

DOLE Department Order No. 40-D, Series of 2005

DOLE Department Order No. 40-F-3, Series of 2008

DOLE Department Order No. 40-G-03, Series of 2010

DOLE Department Order No. 40-I, Series of 2015

DOLE Department Order No. 15, Series of 2015

▪ Jurisprudence or Supreme Court Decisions (as cited above)

Disclaimer: All information is for educational and general information only. These should not be taken as professional legal advice or opinion. Please consult a competent lawyer to address your specific concerns. Any statements or opinions of the author are solely his own and do not reflect that of any organization he may be connected.

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