ECOP Comments on NLRC Proposals
Vis-à-vis P-Noy Labor Agenda
The National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) has drawn up measures in response to platform and policy pronouncements by President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III on labor and employment.
The measures identified by NLRC dwell on streamlining of procedures, improvement of internal processes, ensuring integrity and fairness in the arbitration system, and improving quality of decisions.
On streamlining of procedures, the proposals entail revisiting the NLRC Rules of Procedure and Manual on Execution of Judgment to address concerns about delay and ensure more transparency, clarity and predictability; further strengthening mandatory conciliation and mediation proceedings with the end in view of increasing the number of disposition of cases by way of settlement and reducing time spent in case resolution; and immediate dismissal and/or termination of the proceedings by the labor arbiter of termination disputes initially processed in the grievance procedure in accordance with existing collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) through the issuance of a formal order of dismissal and referral of the disputes to voluntary arbitration.
Regarding improving quality of decisions, NLRC intends to conduct seminars and conventions for commissioners and labor arbiters on recent applicable laws and jurisprudence, maintain higher level of affirmance by the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, and conduct regular dialogue between commissioners and labor arbiters to ensure that decisions are based on prevailing laws, policies and jurisprudence.
For its part, the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) made certain observations on NLRC’s proposed reform measures.
With respect to NLRC’s proposal to further strengthen mandatory conciliation and mediation proceedings, ECOP noted that no data are available on the number and nature of cases settled through conciliation and mediation as part of the arbitration process. “What is clear is that conciliation and arbitration are two completely different but complementary disciplines. Conciliation or mediation as a voluntary scheme of dispute settlement can never be mixed with the exercise of compulsory arbitration in one person or body, as it would be counter-effective,” ECOP pointed out.
In addition, ECOP said a unique and essential characteristic of the conciliation process is its flexibility where the same procedure need not be followed in every case. ECOP cited that a conciliator who need not be a lawyer (and this may even be an advantage) must adjust his approaches, strategies and techniques to the circumstances of each dispute. Statements of positions by the parties partake the nature of privileged communications that cannot be used as a basis for adjudication. On the other hand, compulsory arbitration is governed by fixed rules of procedure and appreciation of the probative value evidence on the basis of which the labor arbiter who must invariably be a qualified lawyer adjudicates the case.
ECOP also brought forward recommendations amid proposals by the NLRC. ECOP, for instance, raised the need to consider the feasibility of a Presidential Executive or Administrative Order whereby the NCMB shall perform the same functions vested upon it by law, rules and regulations and at the same time, it shall be the entry point for cases filed under Art. 217 of the Labor Code except cases arising under Sec. 10 of Republic Act 8042.
Part of ECOP’s recommendations are as follows: all cases assumed by the NCMB under Art. 217 of the Labor Code which are not settled within a specified period shall be referred to the appropriate compulsory arbitration branch of the NLRC, maintain the present grievance machinery-to-voluntary arbitration set-up as provided under Articles 260-262-B, termination disputes in organized establishment should be placed under the exclusive jurisdiction of the grievance machinery with voluntary arbitration as the final step, and transferring back jurisdiction over cases arising under Sec. 10 of R.A. 8042 to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).