Press Release
November 5, 2012

Bill to institutionalize conciliation and mediation in labor disputes approved

The Senate has approved a bill which seeks to institutionalize conciliation and mediation in settling labor disputes.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, author and sponsor of Senate Bill 2918, said that putting into law the existing policy of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) on conciliation and mediation services would declog the department's quasi-judicial arm and appropriate offices, prevent issues from escalating into full-blown labor disputes and reduce lawsuits, especially those on small money matters.

"The proposed measure is in consonance with Section 3, Article XIII of the Constitution providing for the preferential use of voluntary modes in settling disputes, including conciliation," Estada said.

He said labor disputes such as termination or suspension of employment issues, money claims, intra- and inter-union issues, unfair labor practice, and Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) cases can be subjected to conciliation-mediation.

The National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB), an attached agency of the DoLE, defines conciliation as a mild form of intervention by a neutral third party, the conciliator-mediator, who keeps an open communication line between the aggrieved parties and tries to calm an already tense situation.

Mediation, on the other hand, is referred to as a mild intervention by a neutral third party, the conciliator-mediator, who offers solutions or alternatives to the problems with the end in view of assisting parties towards voluntarily reaching their own mutually acceptable settlement of the dispute.

According to Estrada, DoLE has successfully settled labor cases by using the conciliation and mediation approach. Since 2010, he said, DoLE settled 24,533 labor cases within the prescribed 30 day period with total monetary benefits amounting to P1,214,920,484.07, covering 36,767 workers.

"Conciliation-mediation is also used in full-blown disputes such as actual strikes or lockouts and in disputes that have already been assumed or certified for compulsory arbitration, to exhaust all possible remedies and explore solutions mutually acceptable to both parties," Estrada said. DoLE statistics show that five assumed cases by the Secretary of Labor in 2011 were settled through conciliation, benefitting some 2,201 workers.

"The advantages of employing conciliation-mediation in resolving disputes only show that conciliation-mediation is indeed a practical, desirable and promising method of alternative dispute resolution," Estrada said.

Meanwhile, the Senate also approved on final reading a bill declaring every January as Liver and Viral Hepatitis Awareness and Prevention Month.

Sen. Pia Cayetano, chairperson of the Committee on Health and Demography and sponsor of the Senate Bill 3224, said that once the proposed measure is passed into law, a comprehensive public education and awareness of liver cancer and viral hepatitis will be undertaken every January.

Specifically, she said, the health department will lead other agencies in educating the public on the causes, modes of transmission, consequences, diagnoses, treatments and prevention of viral hepatitis, including the need for immediate infant immunization.

SBN 3224 was introduced by Senators Sonny Trillanes and Cayetano. (PILAR MACROHON, PRIB)

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