NEWS & UPDATES
Columnist held not an employee of the newspaper
A newspaper columnist was held to be not an employee of the newspaper which published her column. The control factor, a decisive criterion in determining employer-employee relationship, was found absent. The newspaper’s editors did not dictate how the columnist was to write or produce her articles each week. Aside from the constraints presented by the space allocation of her column, there were no restraints on her creativity; she was free to write her column in the manner and style she was accustomed to and use whatever research method she deemed suitable for her purpose.
The apparent limitation that she had to write only on the subjects that befitted the Lifestyle section did not translate to control but was simply a logical consequence of the fact that her column appeared in that section and therefore had to cater to the preference of the readers of that section.
Orozco vs. Court of Appeals & Philippine Daily Inquirer, G.R. No. 155207, 13 August 2008.
Bank adjudged guilty of unlawful diminution of medical benefits
A bank was found liable for violating the prohibition against unilateral diminution of employee benefits, on two counts, when it changed its group health insurance provider. Pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement, the bank signed a group health plan with a provider which agreed to extend maternity benefits to the dependent-spouses of the bank’s male employees (i.e, not just to its female employees) and also included outpatient medicine reimbursements in the benefits. Upon signing of the new bargaining agreement (which mandated continuation of “group hospitalization and major surgical insurance plan”) , the bank changed its health insurance provider. The new health insurance plan limited maternity benefits to the female employees of the bank (thus excluding the dependent-spouses of the male employees) and likewise excluded outpatient medicine reimbursement.
The Supreme Court ruled: 1) The old group health plan did not exclude dependents from the coverage of maternity benefits. In fact, the bank’s policy booklet on its health plan explicitly provides for the procedure in which dependents could avail of maternity benefits. Hence, the bank is legally obliged to continue the grant of maternity benefits to the dependent-spouses of its male employees. 2) The grant of outpatient medicine reimbursements, while not expressly provided under the old group health plan, was nevertheless unilaterally allowed by the former provider with the apparent conformity of the bank. Thus, a company practice on outpatient medicine reimbursement has developed which the bank cannot unilaterally withdraw.
Standard Chartered Bank vs. Standard Chartered Bank Employees Union, G.R. No. 165550, 08 October 2008.
Retrenchment of 1,400 cabin crew held illegal
The retrenchment by Philippine Airlines of 1,400 cabin crew was declared illegal. Several reasons were advanced to justify the ruling. First, the airline failed to substantiate its claims of actual and imminent losses in 1997. Although the Philippine economy was gravely affected by the Asian financial crisis, it cannot however be assumed that it has likewise brought PAL to the brink of bankruptcy. Likewise, the fact that PAL underwent corporate rehabilitation does not automatically justify the retrenchment of its cabin crew or excuse it from submitting its audited financial statements with the labor tribunals to prove the urgency, necessity, and extent of its retrenchment program.
The airline submitted its audited financial statements only when the case was the subject of certiorari proceedings in the Court of Appeals. However, the audited financial statements submitted were those consolidated for the years 2002, 2003, and 2004. These would not show PAL’s alleged precarious position at the time it implemented its massive retrenchment scheme in 1998. PAL should have submitted its audited financial statements for 1997 to 1999. Moreover, PAL has not shown to the court’s satisfaction that the pilots’ strike gravely affected its operations as it offered no proof to show the correlation between the pilots’ strike and its alleged financial difficulties. Second, the airline failed to show that it resorted to other means prior to retrenchment but that these means proved to be insufficient or inadequate such as cost reduction, lesser investment on raw materials, adjustment of work routine to avoid scheduled power failure, reduction of the bonuses and salaries of both the management and rank-and-file, improvement of manufacturing efficiency, and trimming of marketing and advertising costs.
There is no proof that PAL engaged in cost-cutting measures other than mere reduction in its fleet of aircraft and retrenchment of 5,000 of its personnel. Third, the implementation of the retrenchment program was also arbitrary and in bad faith. Philippine Airlines offered no satisfactory explanation why it abandoned its earlier Plan 14 (meaning, retain only 14 planes) and went for Plan 22. It was unfair for PAL to have made such a move, considering that several thousand of its employees who had been working long for PAL lost their jobs only to be recalled but assigned to lower positions and worse, some as new hires without regard for their long years of service with the airline. It rehired 140 probationary cabin attendants yet proceeded to terminate the services of its permanent cabin crew personnel.
Fourth, the standards it used in selecting who would be retrenched were not fair and reasonable. The criterion of “other reasons” is unfair and does not show it is a valid cause. Moreover, restricting the performance to year 1997 only is unfair because it did away with the concepts of seniority, loyalty, and past efficiency and treated all cabin attendants as if they were on equal footing with no one more senior than the other.
FASAP vs. PAL, G.R. NO. 178083, 22 July 2008.
Stricter proof of redundancy demanded by Supreme Court
The submission of a new table of organization and a certification of the HRD Supervisor that the functions of the terminated rank-and-file employees are now being discharged by supervisory employees are grossly inadequate and self-serving to prove the legitimacy of the redundancy program. More compelling evidence would have been a comparison of the old and new staffing patterns, a description of the abolished and newly-created positions, and proof of the set of business targets and failure to attain the same which necessitated the reorganization or streamlining.
Likewise, the submission of memoranda intended to establish that the employees were remiss in the performance of their duties is a futile exercise to prove the validity of redundancy. Reorganization arises because there is no more need for the employee’s position in relation to the whole business organization, and not because the employee’s work performance is unsatisfactory. Hence, such memoranda of inefficiency are totally irrelevant.
AMA Computer College vs Garcia & Balla, G.R. No.166703, 14 April 2008.
Seaman slapped by POEA with six-month disciplinary suspension
A manning agency successfully brought suit for disciplinary action against a seaman who opted not to return to the vessel in order to be with his sick wife. The records of the disciplinary case, filed at the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) showed that the collective bargaining agreement allows a seaman to take a leave of absence only if his wife or child is dangerously ill. Since his wife was not seriously ill, the seaman’s act constituted abandonment. The POEA penalized the erring seaman by prohibiting him from working abroad for a period of six months.
Ventis Maritime Corp. vs Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 160338, 06 October 2008.