Published 25 June 2021, The Daily Tribune
When juxtaposed, there seems to be a conflict between Article 276 of the Labor Code and Rule 43 of the Rules of Court. The former says that a decision of a voluntary arbitrator (VA) shall be final and executory after 10 calendar days from notice. On the other hand, the latter says that an appeal from the judgment of a voluntary arbitrator to the Court of Appeals (CA) must be made within 15 days from notice.
Fortunately, the Supreme Court (SC) has settled the seemingly conflicting provisions in a 15 March 2021 decision in DORELCO Employees Union-ALU-TUCP v. Don Orestes Romualdez Electric Cooperative (DORELCO) Inc. (G.R. 240130).
In the said case, the labor union and the company submitted for arbitration before the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) the issue on whether the rank-and-file employees are entitled to salary adjustments under their collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Meanwhile, several employees retired from service. Thus, the company required these employees to sign quitclaims so they can receive their retirement benefits. Some of them signed, but others refused to do so and opted to wait for the resolution of the arbitration case.
Subsequently, the VA ruled that the employees are entitled to salary increases under their CBA. The company thus paid the retirement benefits of those who previously refused to sign the quitclaims plus the salary differentials. Thereafter, the labor union submitted for arbitration before the NCMB the issue on whether those who signed the quitclaims can claim the salary adjustments. On 22 September 2017, the VA decided that those who already executed the quitclaims are not entitled to the salary differential. On 27 November 2017, the union received the VA’s resolution denying its motion for reconsideration (MR) for lack of merit. On 12 December 2017, the union elevated the case to the CA via a Rule 43 Petition for Review.
However, the CA dismissed the union’s petition on the ground that the appeal was filed beyond the 10-day period, relying on Article 276 of the Labor Code.
The Supreme Court disagreed with the CA. The SC said there is no conflict between Article 276 of the Labor Code and Rule 43 of the Rules of Court. Relying on the En Banc case of Guagua National Colleges v. CA (G.R. 188492, 28 August 2018), the SC clarified that Article 276 should be understood as the time within which the adverse party may move for reconsideration from the decision or award of the VA. Thereafter, the aggrieved party may appeal to the CA within 15 days from notice pursuant to Rule 43.
In the case of DORELCO, the union received the VA’s resolution denying its MR on 26 November 2017. Hence, the union had 15 days or until 12 December 2017 within which to perfect its appeal. Thus, the union’s petition was timely filed. The SC remanded the case to the CA to resolve the merits immediately.
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