Third Part of a Series
In what may be another historic milestone for the Department of Labor and Employment, the year 2008 saw the lowest strike rate in seven decades of the Departments’ colorful existence.
Amidst the global financial crisis spawning a slowdown or recession in most of the economies of the world, the country experienced the most stable and calm industrial front ever as only five (5) strikes were registered during the year.
Labor Secretary Marianito D. Roque, citing a report from the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB), the agency that addresses turbulence in the industrial front, said the relentless efforts of the agency to settle industrial disputes and prevent strikes and lockouts have drastically reduced their occurrence for the last 21 years.
The Board primarily provides conciliation and mediation services to disputing parties. It also promotes other modes of labor dispute settlement such as grievance handling, voluntary arbitration and labor-management cooperation. It also introduced the concept of preventive mediation, wherein labor and management conflicts are settled without the pressure of a threat of strike or lockout.
Lowest strike rate
Roque said that with the intervention of NCMB, the annual number of strikes and lockouts tapered off gradually from a high of 581 in 1986 to its lowest yet of five in 2008, adding that notices of strikes/lockouts had a disposition rate of 89 percent, as compared to the 86 percent in 2007. Settlement rate was at 77 percent as against 74 percent last year.
The labor chief said efforts to facilitate settlement of industrial disputes and prevent debilitating strikes and lockouts gained headway as disputing parties resorted to less costly and more expeditious means of settling their disputes.
Roque said for 2008, disputing labor and management resorted to a total of 509 cases of preventive mediation (PM) to hasten the settlement of their dispute. With PM, disputing labor and management request the NCMB for conciliation in the settlement of their conflict.
The Alternative Dispute Resolution
The DOLE Chief hailed the social partners for displaying maturity, saying their preference for alternative dispute resolution (ADR) indicated their heightened awareness on the benefits of resolving disputes amicably and expeditiously.
“ADR is less costly and more expeditious as compared to compulsory arbitration which has proven to be adversarial, expensive and susceptible to delays,” Roque said adding that “ADR also facilitates dispute settlement and, thus, ensures labor and management harmony and continued productivity of workers.
Roque also took note that PM cases handled by NCMB had a 100 percent success rate in 2008, just about the same in 2007.
Under PM, cumulative monetary benefits as a result of settlement of CBA deadlock issues were computed at P183 million benefiting 1,674 workers during the period.
The NCMB said notices of strikes/lockouts in 386 establishments were handled, of which 342 were disposed of. Disposition rate since January improved to 89 percent from 86 percent while settlement rate likewise climbed to 77 percent from 74 percent last year.
The NCMB report also showed that cumulative collective bargaining agreement (CBA) economic benefits as a result of settlement of bargaining deadlock cases were computed at P578 million benefiting 7,768 workers. Likewise, the settlement of cases involving unfair labor practices (ULP) issues benefited 2,398 workers with P193 million in separation pay and restitution packages.
As of October 2008, the DOLE, through the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), also resolved a total of 28,773 compulsory arbitration (CA) cases out of the 40,583 cases handled at the regional arbitration level, registering a disposition rate of 71%. The NLRC likewise resolved a total of 11,249 cases out of the 17,385 cases handled at the Appellate level, registering a disposition rate of 64.7%.
The resolution of CA cases facilitated the awarding of P 1.753 billion in favor of the 11,522 workers or about P152, 144 monetary benefits per worker.
The report also stated that the DOLE continued to help in resolving conflicts between contending labor unions or within union ranks to prevent potential paralysis in operation at the workplace. During the year, the DOLE regional offices disposed 254 med-arbitration cases out of the 316 cases handled, registering a disposition rate of 80%.
A total of 9,475 cases from labor standards violations not exceeding P5,000.00 per individual and without claims for reinstatement were handled by the DOLE’s regional offices, out of which 4,645 were disposed for a disposition rate of 49.02%. The resolution of these cases resulted in the payment of P200.75 million cash benefits to 46,592 workers.
The strengthening of labor education and compliance assistance to workers and employers in the areas of human relations, labor relations and productivity have resulted in increased maturity of the social partners especially at the firm level, in resolving workplace conflicts. Since 2001, almost 1 million workers and employers as well as graduating college students were reached by the DOLE’s continuing labor and employment education program (LHP).
For the year 2008, the LHP program of DOLE benefitted 100,417 workers, employers and graduating students.