CALTEX Refinery Employees Assosiation vs. Brillantes

CALTEX Refinery Employees Assosiation vs. Brillantes

G.R. No.123782

September 16, 1997




1. Anticipating the expiration of their Collective Bargaining Agreement on July 31, 1995, petitioner and private respondent negotiated the terms and conditions of employment to be contained in a new CBA. The negotiation between the two parties was participated in by the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) and the Office of the Secretary of Labor and Employment. Some items in the new CBA were amicably arrived at and agreed upon, but others were unresolved. To settle the unresolved issues, eight meetings between the parties were conducted. Because the parties failed to reach any significant progress in these meetings, petitioner declared a deadlock. On July 24, 1995, petitioner filed a notice of strike. Six (6) conciliation meetings conducted by the NCMB failed to settle the parties' differences. Then, the parties held marathon meetings at the plant level, but this remedy proved also unavailing. During a strike vote on August 16, 1995, the members of petitioner opted for a walkout. Private respondent then filed with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) a petition for assumption of jurisdiction in accordance with Article 263 (g) of the Labor Code. In an Order dated August 22, 1995, public respondent assumed jurisdiction "over the entire labor dispute at Caltex (Philippines) Inc.," with the following disposition:

"WHEREFORE, ABOVE PREMISES CONSIDERED, this Office hereby assumes jurisdiction over the entire labor dispute at Caltex (Philippines) Inc. pursuant to Article 263 (g) of the Labor Code, as amended.

 Accordingly, any strike or lockout, whether actual or intended, is hereby enjoined. The parties are further directed to cease and desist from committing any and all acts which might exacerbate the situation. To expedite the resolution of the instant dispute, the parties are further directed to submit their respective position papers and evidence within ten (10) days from receipt hereof." In defiance of the above Order expressly restraining any strike or lockout, petitioner began a strike and set up a picket in the premises of private respondent on August 25, 1995. Thereafter, several company notices directing the striking employees to return to work were issued, but the members of petitioner defied them and continued their mass action. In the course of the strike, DOLE Undersecretary Bienvenido Laguesma interceded and conducted several conciliation meetings between the contending parties. He was able to convince the members of the union to return to work and to enter into a memorandum of agreement with private respondent. On September 9, 1995, the picket lines were finally lifted. Thereafter, the contending parties filed their position papers pertaining to unresolved issues.

Because of the strike, private respondent terminated the employment of some officers of petitioner union. The legality of these dismissals brought additional contentious issues. Again, the parties tried to resolve their differences through conciliation. Failing to come to any substantial agreement, the parties stopped further negotiation and, on September 13, 1995, decided to refer the problem to the Secretary of Labor and Employment. The disposition of the first assailed Order of public respondent dated October 9, 1995 reads:

 "WHEREFORE, ON THE BASIS OF THE FOREGOING, the Caltex Refinery Employees Association and Caltex Philippines, Inc. are hereby directed to execute a new collective bargaining agreement embodying therein the appropriate dispositions above spelled out including those subject of previous agreements.

 Provisions in the old CBA, or existing benefits subject of Company policy or practice not otherwise modified or improved herein are deemed maintained. New demands not otherwise touched upon or disposed of are hereby denied." The motions for reconsideration and clarification of the above Order filed by both petitioner and private respondent were denied in the second assailed Order dated November 21, 1995, which disposed:

 "WHEREFORE, except the modifications hereinabove set forth, the Order dated 9 October 1995 is hereby affirmed.

 Moreover, pursuant to the Agreement reached by the parties on 13 September 1995 for this Office to commence the proceedings concerning the legality of strike and the termination of the union officers, after the resolution of the CBA issues, both parties are hereby directed to submit their position papers and evidence within ten (10) days from receipt of a copy of this Order. For this purpose, Atty. Tito F. Genilo is hereby designated as Hearing Officer and authorized as such, to immediately conduct hearings and receive evidence and, thereafter, submit his report and recommendations thereon." Petitioner's second motion for reconsideration of the above Order was likewise denied by the third assailed Order dated January 9, 1996, as follows:

 "WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, our Order of 21 November 1995 is hereby affirmed en toto, subject to the afore- mentioned clarification on the issue of Sunday work.

 No further motions of this nature shall be entertained by this Office. The parties are given another ten (10) days from receipt hereof to submit their respective position papers and evidences (sic) relative to the issue of the legality of strike and termination of the union officers."

2. Petitioner asseverates that the "signing bonus is an existing benefit embodied in the old CBA." It explains that public respondent erred in removing the award of a signing bonus which is "given not only as an incentive for peaceful negotiations and amicable settlement of disputes but also as an extra award to the workers following the settlement of a CBA dispute by whatever means." Private respondent disagrees, contending that a signing bonus is not awarded when CBA negotiations "result in a strike." There are two reasons therefor: First, "the grant of a signing bonus is a matter of discretion and cannot be demanded as a matter of right;" and second, the signing bonus is meant as an incentive for a peaceful negotiation. Once these negotiations result in a strike, an illegal one at that, the basis or rationale for such an award is lost."


1. Whether or not the Honorable Secretary of Labor and Employment committed grave abuse of discretion in resolving the instant labor dispute.

2. Whether or not a signing bonus may be demanded as a matter of right. 


1. No. Other than his failure to rule on the issue of union security, the secretary of labor cannot be indicted for grave abuse of discretion amounting to want or excess of jurisdiction.

When parties agree to submit unresolved issues to the secretary of labor for his resolution, they should not expect their positions to be adopted in toto. It is understood that they defer to his wisdom and objectivity in insuring industrial peace. And unless they can clearly demonstrate bias, arbitrariness, capriciousness or personal hostility on the part of such public officer, the Court will not interfere or substitute the said officer's judgment with its own.

In this case, it is possible that this Court, or some of its members at least, may even agree with the wisdom of petitioner's claims. But unless grave abuse of discretion is cogently shown, this Court will refrain from using its extraordinary power of certiorari to strike down decisions and orders of quasi-judicial officers specially tasked by law to settle administrative questions and disputes. This is particularly true in the resolution of controversies in collective bargaining agreements where the question is rarely one of legal right or wrong — nay, of black and white — but one of wisdom, cogency and compromise as to what is possible, fair and reasonable under the circumstances.

2. No. Although proposed by petitioner, the signing bonus was not accepted by private respondent. Besides, a signing bonus is not a benefit which may be demanded under the law. Rather, it is now claimed by petitioner under the principle of "maintenance of existing benefits" of the old CBA. However, as clearly explained by private respondent, a signing bonus may not be demanded as a matter of right. If it is not agreed upon by the parties or unilaterally offered as an additional incentive by private respondent, the condition for awarding it must be duly satisfied. In the present case, the condition sine qua non for its grant — a non-strike — was not complied with. In fact, private respondent categorically stated in its counter-proposal — to the exclusion of those agreed upon before — that the new collective bargaining agreement would constitute the only agreement between the parties.

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