Divine Word Univ. vs. NLRC

 Divine Word Univ. vs. NLRC

G.R. No.91915

September 11, 1992


[a] company’s refusal to make counter proposal if considered in relation to the entire bargaining process, may indicate bad faith and this is especially true where the Union’s request for a counter proposal is left unanswered.”

“it is not obligatory upon either side of a labor controversy to precipitately accept or agree to the proposals of the other. But an erring party should not be tolerated and allowed with impunity to resort to schemes feigning negot iations by going through empty gestures.”

Divine Word University Employees Union (DWUEU) was certified as the sole and exclusive bargaining agent of the Divine Word University. Subsequently, the Divine Union submitted its collective bargaining proposals March 7, 1985
The University replied and requested a preliminary conference. However, two days before the scheduled conference the DWUEU’s resigned vice-president Mr. Brigido Urminita wrote a letter addressed to the University unilaterally withdrawing the CBA proposals. Consequently, the preliminary conference was cancelled.
After almost three years, or on March 11, 1988, the DWUEU, which had by then affiliated with the Associated Labor Union (ALU), requested a conference with the University for the purpose of continuing the collective bargaining negotiations. A follow-up letter was sent regarding their request but to no avail.
DWUEU -ALU filed with the National Conciliation and Mediation Board of the Department of Labor and Employment a notice of strike on the grounds of bargaining deadlock and unfair labor practice acts, specifically, refusal to bargain, discrimination and coercion on employees.
After the filing of the notice of strike, a conference was held which led to the conclusion of an agreement between the University and DWUEU-ALU on May 10, 1888
However, it turned out that an hour before the May 10, 1988 agreement was concluded, the University had filed a petition for certification election
On the other hand, on May 19, 1988, DWUEU-ALU, consonant with the agreement, submitted its collective bargaining proposals. These were ignored by the University.
Med-Arbiter Milado, acting on the University’s petition for certification election, issued an Order directing the conduct of a certification election to be participated in by DWUEU-ALU and “no union,” after he found the petition to be “well-supported in fact and in law.
Said Order prompted the DWUEU-ALU to file with the Secretary of Labor an urgent motion seeking to enjoin Milado from further acting on the matter of the certification election.
The Divine Word University Independent Faculty and Employees Union (DWUIFEU), which was registered earlier that day, filed a motion for intervention alleging that it had “at least 20% of the rank and file employees” of the University.
The Secretary of Labor dismissed not only the case filed by DWUEU-ALU for unfair labor practice on the   ground of the union’s failure to prove the commission of the unfair labor practice acts specifically complained of but also the complaint filed by the University for unfair labor practices and illegal strike for “obvious lack of merit brought about by its utter failure to submit evidence”
The DWUEU-ALU had filed a second notice of strike charging the University with violation of the return-to-work order which was previously ordered by the Secretary of Labor and unfair labor practices such as dismissal of union officers, coercion of employees and illegal suspension
Acting Secretary then concluded that for reneging on the agreement of May 10, 1988 and for its “reluctance and subscription to legal delay,” the University should be “declared in default.” He also maintained that since under the circumstances the University cannot claim deprivation of due process, the Office of the Secretary of Labor may rightfully impose the Union’s May 19, 1988 collective bargaining agreement proposals motu proprio.

Whether or not there was refusal to bargain and an impasse in bargaining

YES. A thorough study of the records reveals that there was no “reasonable effort at good faith bargaining” specially on the part of the University. Its indifferent attitude towards collective bargaining inevitably resulted in the failure of the parties to arrive at an agreement.
As the Court earlier observed, there has not been a “reasonable effort at good faith bargaining” on the part of the University. While DWUEU-ALU was opening all possible avenues for the conclusion of an agreement, the record is replete with evidence on the University’s reluctance and thinly disguised refusal to bargain with the duly certified bargaining agent, such that the inescapable conclusion is that the University evidently had no intention of bargaining with it. Thus, while the Court recognizes that technically, the University has the right to file the petition for certification election as there was no bargaining deadlock to speak of, to grant its prayer that the herein assailed Orders be annulled would put an unjustified premium on bad faith bargaining.
Bad faith on the part of the University is further exemplified by the fact that an hour before the start of the May 10, 1988 conference, it surreptitiously filed the petition for certification election. And yet during said conference, it committed itself to “sit down” with the Union. Obviously, the University tried to preempt the conference which would have legally foreclosed its right to file the petition for certification election. In so doing, the University failed to act in accordance with Art. 252 of the Labor Code which defines the meaning of the duty to bargain collectively as “the performance of a mutual obligation to meet and convene promptly and expeditiously in good faith.” Moreover, by filing the petition for certification election while agreeing to confer with the DWUEU-ALU, the University violated the mandate of Art. 19 of the Civil Code that “(e)very person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith.”
Moreover, the University’s unscrupulous attitude towards the DWUEU-ALU is also betrayed by its belated questioning of the status of the said union. The communications between them afforded the University ample opportunity to raise the issue of representation if indeed it was doubtful of the DWUEU-ALU’s status as a majority union, but it failed to do so. On the other hand, in the agreement of May 10, 1988, the University even agreed “to sit down and determine the number of employees that will represent their bargaining unit.” This clearly indicates that the University recognized the DWUEU-ALU as the bargaining representative of the employees and is, therefore, estopped from questioning the majority status of the said union.

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