SMCEU v. Judge Bersamira

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SMCEU v. Judge Bersamira Case Digest

SMCEU vs Judge Bersamira


G.R. No. 87700
June 13, 1990


Sometime in 1983 and 1984, SanMig entered into contracts for merchandising services with Lipercon and D’Rite. These companies are independent contractors duly licensed by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). In said contracts, it was expressly understood and agreed that the workers employed by the contractors were to be paid by the latter and that none of them were to be deemed employees or agents of SanMig. There was to be no employer-employee relation between the contractors and/or its workers, on the one hand, and SanMig on the other.

Petitioner San Miguel Corporation Employees Union-PTWGO (the Union, for brevity) is the duly authorized representative of the monthly paid rank-and-file employees of SanMig with whom the latter executed a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) effective 1 July 1986 to 30 June 1989. Section 1 of their CBA specifically provides that “temporary, probationary, or contract employees and workers are excluded from the bargaining unit and, therefore, outside the scope of this Agreement.”

In a letter, dated 20 November 1988, the Union advised SanMig that some Lipercon and D’Rite workers had signed up for union membership and sought the regularization of their employment with SMC. The Union alleged that this group of employees, while appearing to be contractual workers supposedly independent contractors, have been continuously working for SanMig for a period ranging from six (6) months to fifteen (15) years and that their work is neither casual nor seasonal as they are performing work or activities necessary or desirable in the usual business or trade of SanMig. Thus, it was contended that there exists a “labor-only” contracting situation. It was then demanded that the employment status of these workers be regularized.

The Union filed two notices to strike and several conciliation conferences were held to settle the dispute before the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) of DOLE. Beginning 14 February 1989 until 2 March 1989, series of pickets were staged by Lipercon and D’Rite workers in various SMC plants and offices.

On 6 March 1989, SMC filed a verified Complaint for Injunction and Damages before respondent Court to enjoin the Union from staging the strikes.

Respondent Court found the Complaint sufficient in form and substance and issued a Temporary Restraining Order for the purpose of maintaining the status quo, and set the application for Injunction for hearing.

In the meantime, the Union filed a Motion to Dismiss SanMig’s Complaint on the ground of lack of jurisdiction over the case/nature of the action, which motion was opposed by SanMig. That Motion was denied by respondent Judge.

After several hearings on SanMig’s application for injunctive relief, respondent Court issued the questioned Order granting the application and enjoining the Union from committing the acts complained of. Accordingly, respondent Court issued the corresponding Writ of Preliminary Injunction. The respondent court rationalized that the absence of an employer-employee relationship negates the existence of labor dispute. Verily, this court (RTC) has jurisdiction to take cognizance of plaintiff’s grievance.


Whether, or not the case at bar involves, or is in connection with, or relates to a labor dispute.


YES, it does. That a labor dispute, as defined by the law in Article 212 (1) of the Labor Code, does exist herein is evident. At bottom, what the Union seeks is to regularize the status of the employees contracted by Lipercon and D’Rite in effect, that they be absorbed into the working unit of SanMig. This matter definitely dwells on the working relationship between said employees vis-a-vis SanMig. Terms, tenure and conditions of their employment and the arrangement of those terms are thus involved bringing the matter within the purview of a labor dispute. Further, the Union also seeks to represent those workers, who have signed up for Union membership, for the purpose of collective bargaining. SanMig, for its part, resists that Union demand on the ground that there is no employer-employee relationship between it and those workers and because the demand violates the terms of their CBA. Obvious then is that representation and association, for the purpose of negotiating the conditions of employment are also involved. In fact, the injunction sought by SanMig was precisely also to prevent such representation. Again, the matter of representation falls within the scope of a labor dispute. Neither can it be denied that the controversy below is directly connected with the labor dispute already taken cognizance of by the NCMB-DOLE

 The issues between the parties – union demands; “labor-only” contracting of Lipercon and D’rite; the Union representing workers from Lipercon and D’rite – are issues the resolution of which calls for the application of labor laws.

 As the case is indisputably linked with a labor dispute, jurisdiction belongs to the labor tribunals. As explicitly provided for in Article 217 of the Labor Code, prior to its amendment by R.A. No. 6715 on 21 March 1989, since the suit below was instituted on 6 March 1989, Labor Arbiters have original and exclusive jurisdiction to hear and decide the following cases involving all workers including “1. Unfair labor practice cases; 2. Those that workers may file involving wages, hours of work and other terms and conditions of employment; … and 5. Cases arising from any violation of Article 265 of this Code, including questions involving the legality of strikes and lockouts. …” Article 217 lays down the plain command of the law.

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