Jul 122013

PETITIONER Bankard, Inc. has resorted to job contractualization or outsourcing or contracting out of jobs. Among other programs, it also implemented a Manpower Rationalization Program (MRP), which was an invitation to the employees to tender their voluntary resignation with entitlement to separation pay equivalent to at least two months’ salary for every year of service. Majority of its Phone Center and Service Fulfillment Division employees availed themselves of the MRP.

Respondent Bankard Employees Union-AWATU (Union) contended that Bankard committed unfair labor practice (ULP). Is there merit to this contention?

Ruling: No.

The general principle is that the one who makes an allegation has the burden of proving it. While there are exceptions to this general rule, in ULP cases, the alleging party has the burden of proving the ULP; and in order to show that the employer committed ULP under the Labor Code, substantial evidence is required to support the claim. Such principle finds justification in the fact that ULP is punishable with both civil and/or criminal sanctions.

Aside from the bare allegations of the union, nothing in the records strongly proves that Bankard intended its program, the MRP, as a tool to drastically and deliberately reduce union membership. Contrary to the findings and conclusions of both the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) and the Court of Appeals (CA), there was no proof that the program was meant to encourage the employees to disassociate themselves from the union or to restrain them from joining any union or organization.

There was no showing that it was intentionally implemented to stunt the growth of the union or that Bankard discriminated against, or in any way singled out the union members who had availed themselves of the retirement package under the MRP.

True, the program might have affected the number of union membership because of the employees’ voluntary resignation and availment of the package, but it does not necessarily follow that Bankard indeed purposely sought such a result. It must be recalled that the MRP was implemented as a valid cost-cutting measure, well within the ambit of the so-called management prerogatives. Bankard contracted an independent agency to meet business exigencies. In the absence of any showing that Bankard was motivated by ill will, bad faith or malice, or that it was aimed at interfering with its employees’ right to self-organize, it cannot be said to have committed an act of unfair labor practice (Bankard, Inc. vs. NLRC, et. al., G.R. No. 171664, March 6, 2013).

(Almirante is a former labor arbiter)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 13, 2013.

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