Press Release
June 3, 2012

Jinggoy seeks limit to Labor Secretary's assumption power over disputes

Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada sponsored a measure which seeks to establish clear cut policy and guidelines on the power of the Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) to assume jurisdiction over labor disputes, which has often been accused of being "indiscriminately used and abusively expanded." In his sponsorship speech for Committee Report 158, Sen. Estrada, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, noted a legal situation where the Constitution guarantees the right of all workers to self-organization, collective bargaining and peaceful concerted activities, including the right to strike in accordance with law; while on the other hand giving the DoLE Secretary powers to automatically prohibit imminent strike or lockout and order employees to return to work or face dismissal from employment.

The abovementioned authority is provided under Article 263 of the Labor Code which gives the DoLE Secretary to assume jurisdiction over a labor dispute or certify the same for compulsory arbitration when in his/her opinion, it is causing or is likely to cause a strike or lockout in an industry indispensable to national interest. This is to prevent unnecessary work interruption that could possibly lead to considerable socio-economic loss on the part of the labor and management, and to the country as a whole.

In the same speech, Sen. Estrada specified the cases involving Triumph International (Phils.), a factory producing undergarments, and Phimco Industries, Inc., a match manufacturing and selling enterprise, where the Labor Secretary exercised its assumption power and was met with negative responses and opposition.

"The absence of the specific standards or criteria in allowing and substantiating the exercise of the assumption of jurisdiction power of the DoLE Secretary is perceived to have caused the disparity in the implementation of the law," Jinggoy stated.

Sen. Estrada cited that under the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 87 which was ratified by the Philippines on December 1953, strikes could only be prohibited in establishments or industries considered as "essential services."

Senate Bill 3210 under Committee Report 158 qualifies instances wherein the Labor Secretary may assume jurisdiction over:

  • Labor dispute causing or likely to cause strike or lockout in an industry determined through tripartite consultation as essential services, which if interrupted would endanger the life, personal safety or health of whole or part of the population; [Under Senate Bill 632, essential services refer to hospital, water supply and electrical services, and transportation.]

  • Actual or threatened strike or lockout in industries that are not providing essential services, upon request from both parties involved in the dispute after mandatory conciliation;

  • Services which are not essential but where the scope and duration of strike or lockout might result in endangering the life, personal safety or health of the whole or part of the population.

"The enactment of this bill into law would provide a criteria and guidepost for the exercise of the assumption of jurisdiction power of the DoLE Secretary and would prevent disparity in this interpretation or implementation, and realize the objective of industrial peace based on social justice," Sen. Estrada pressed.

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