FACTS: On June 11, 1987, the SSS filed with the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City a complaint for damages with a prayer for a writ of preliminary injunction against petitioners, alleging that on June 9, 1987, the officers and members of SSSEA staged an illegal strike and barricaded the entrances to the SSS Building, preventing non-striking employees from reporting for work and SSS members from transacting business with the SSS; that the strike was reported to the Public Sector Labor-Management Council, which ordered the strikers to return to work; that the strikers refused to return to work; and that the SSS suffered damages as a result of the strike. The complaint prayed that a writ of preliminary injunction be issued to enjoin the strike and that the strikers be ordered to return to work; that the defendants (petitioners herein) be ordered to pay damages; and that the strike be declared illegal.
It appears that the SSSEA went on strike after the SSS failed to act on the union’s demands, which included: implementation of the provisions of the old SSS-SSSEA collective bargaining agreement (CBA) on check-off of union dues; payment of accrued overtime pay, night differential pay and holiday pay; conversion of temporary or contractual employees with six (6) months or more of service into regular and permanent employees and their entitlement to the same salaries, allowances and benefits given to other regular employees of the SSS; and payment of the children’s allowance of P30.00, and after the SSS deducted certain amounts from the salaries of the employees and allegedly committed acts of discrimination and unfair labor practices.
The court a quo, on June 11, 1987, issued a temporary restraining order pending resolution of the application for a writ of preliminary injunction.
The position of the petitioners is that the Regional Trial Court had no jurisdiction to hear the case initiated by the SSS and to issue the restraining order and the writ of preliminary injunction, as jurisdiction lay with the Department of Labor and Employment or the National Labor Relations Commission, since the case involves a labor dispute.
On the other hand, the SSS advances the contrary view, on the ground that the employees of the SSS are covered by civil service laws and rules and regulations, not the Labor Code, therefore they do not have the right to strike. Since neither the DOLE nor the NLRC has jurisdiction over the dispute, the Regional Trial Court may enjoin the employees from striking.
A.) WON the employees of the SSS have the right to strike.
B.) WON the Regional Trial Court have jurisdiction to hear the case initiated by the SSS and to enjoin the strikers from continuing with the strike and to order them to return to work.
A.) NO. The 1987 Constitution, in the Article on Social Justice and Human Rights, provides that the State “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” [Art. XIII, Sec. 3].
By itself, this provision would seem to recognize the right of all workers and employees, including those in the public sector, to strike. But the Constitution itself fails to expressly confirm this impression, for in the Sub-Article on the Civil Service Commission, it provides, after defining the scope of the civil service as “all branches, subdivisions, instrumentalities, and agencies of the Government, including government-owned or controlled corporations with original charters,” that “[t]he right to self-organization shall not be denied to government employees” [Art. IX(B), Sec. 2(1) and (50)]. Parenthetically, the Bill of Rights also provides that “[t]he 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 abridged” [Art. III, Sec. 8]. Thus, while there is no question that the Constitution recognizes the right of government employees to organize, it is silent as to whether such recognition also includes the right to strike.
Resort to the intent of the framers of the organic law becomes helpful in understanding the meaning of these provisions. A reading of the proceedings of the Constitutional Commission that drafted the 1987 Constitution would show that in recognizing the right of government employees to organize, the commissioners intended to limit the right to the formation of unions or associations only, without including the right to strike.
Thus, Commissioner Eulogio R. Lerum, one of the sponsors of the provision that “[t]he right to self-organization shall not be denied to government employees” [Art. IX(B), Sec. 2(5)], in answer to the apprehensions expressed by Commissioner Ambrosio B. Padilla, Vice-President of the Commission, explained
“that the moment we allow anybody in the government to strike, then what will happen if the members of the Armed Forces will go on strike? What will happen to those people trying to protect us? So that is a matter of discussion in the Committee on Social Justice. But, I repeat, the right to form an organization does not carry with it the right to strike.”
Considering that under the 1987 Constitution “[t]he civil service embraces all branches, subdivisions, instrumentalities, and agencies of the Government, including government-owned or controlled corporations with original charters” [Art. IX(B), Sec. 2(1); see also Sec. 1 of E.O. No. 180where the employees in the civil service are denominated as “government employees”] and that the SSS is one such government-controlled corporation with an original charter, having been created under R.A. No. 1161, its employees are part of the civil service [NASECO v. NLRC, G.R. Nos. 69870 & 70295, November 24, 1988] and are covered by the Civil Service Commission’s memorandum prohibiting strikes. This being the case, the strike staged by the employees of the SSS was illegal.
The statement of the Court in Alliance of Government Workers v. Minister of Labor and Employment [G.R. No. 60403, August 3, 1983, 124 SCRA 1] is relevant as it furnishes the rationale for distinguishing between workers in the private sector and government employees with regard to the right to strike:
The general rule in the past and up to the present is that “the terms and conditions of employment in the Government, including any political subdivision or instrumentality thereof are governed by law” (Section 11, the Industrial Peace Act, R.A. No. 875, as amended and Article 277, the Labor Code, P.D. No. 442, as amended). Since the terms and conditions of government employment are fixed by law, government workers cannot use the same weapons employed by workers in the private sector to secure concessions from their employers.
B.) YES. The strike staged by the employees of the SSS belonging to petitioner union being prohibited by law, an injunction may be issued to restrain it.
It is futile for the petitioners to assert that the subject labor dispute falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of the NLRC and, hence, the Regional Trial Court had no jurisdiction to issue a writ of injunction enjoining the continuance of the strike. The Labor Code itself provides that terms and conditions of employment of government employees shall be governed by the Civil Service Law, rules and regulations [Art. 276]. More importantly, E.O. No. 180 vests the Public Sector Labor-Management Council with jurisdiction over unresolved labor disputes involving government employees [Sec. 16]. Clearly, the NLRC has no jurisdiction over the dispute.
This being the case, the Regional Trial Court was not precluded, in the exercise of its general jurisdiction under B.P. Blg. 129, as amended, from assuming jurisdiction over the SSS’s complaint for damages and issuing the injunctive writ prayed for therein. Unlike the NLRC, the Public Sector Labor-Management Council has not been granted by law authority to issue writs of injunction in labor disputes within its jurisdiction. Thus, since it is the Council, and not the NLRC, that has jurisdiction over the instant labor dispute, resort to the general courts of law for the issuance of a writ of injunction to enjoin the strike is appropriate.
Neither could the court a quo be accused of imprudence or overzealousness, for in fact it had proceeded with caution. Thus, after issuing a writ of injunction enjoining the continuance of the strike to prevent any further disruption of public service, the respondent judge, in the same order, admonished the parties to refer the unresolved controversies emanating from their employer-employee relationship to the Public Sector Labor-Management Council for appropriate action [Rollo, p. 86].