When the Philippine National Bank’s labor and management representatives emerged from the negotiating table, both parties were evidently satisfied. After some excruciating bouts, the two groups agreed to a P410 million economic package under the bank’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA) covering three years and will benefit 5,600 employees. Around 574 employees under the Armed Forces Policy Loans and Savings Association are bound to share the same fate as their CBA negotiation was concluded with a P101 million deal.

PNB and the Armed Forces Policy Loans and Saving Association are just among the several notable cases settled last year involving bargaining deadlock. Cases like these have largely contributed to the relative peace that characterized last year’s industrial relations climate. It would be recalled that last year’s 25 work stoppages was the country’s lowest in the last 26 years.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) last year conciliated and mediated in the resolution of CBA deadlocks involving prominent cases in 83 firms nationwide. Through the DOLE’s conciliation and mediation efforts, complemented by sincere determination on the part of labor and management to peacefully and fairly resolve bargaining impasses in their respective companies, close to 30,000 workers are now set to enjoy the benefits of their CBAs worth around P1.6 billion.

These workers represent only 10 percent of the total number of workers who stand to gain from the CBAs concluded last year. Data from the DOLE’s Bureau of Labor Relations (BLR) indicate that there were 282,105 workers covered by the 1,650 CBAs registered with the Department from January to September 2004.

The same data showed that he manufacturing sector registered the most number of CBAs among the industries during the said period with 943 covering over 142,000 workers while the transport, storage and communication sector posted the next highest number of CBAs with 145 benefiting almost 36,000 workers.

The wholesale and retail sector also had a number of CBAs concluded with 119 covering almost 13,000 workers while the agriculture sector had 113 CBAs benefiting some 30,409 workers.

The data indicated that companies in the National Capital Region (NCR) registered the most number of CBAs with 789 covering 112,787 workers. Establishments in Southern Luzon posted the next highest number of CBAs concluded with 201 benefiting more than 45,000 workers. On the other hand, companies in Central Visayas, Central Luzon, and Southern Mindanao combined for 392 CBAs concluded covering close to 77,000 workers.

The BLR also disclosed that of the total number of CBAs signed last year, 393 CBAs provided signing bonuses that benefited over 70,000 workers. The manufacturing sector had 190 CBAs, the most among the industries that provided signing bonuses for some 31,145 workers.

According to the DOLE, more labor unions and employees’ associations nowadays are inclined to resolve labor disputes in negotiating tables due to the beneficial nature of CBAs. Undisrupted company operations even during the negotiating period have made economic demands more realistic and tangible.

Labor and Employment Secretary Patricia A. Sto. Tomas has often said that for both labor and management to come to amenable terms, there should always be continuous dialogue between the two parties. Even at the most trying and difficult instances of the conciliation and mediation process, not one party should lose grip because in the end, the issues would still have to be resolved officially in the negotiating table. She also often stressed the need for both parties to bargain in good faith.

Sto. Tomas also remains optimistic that the maturing relationship between management and labor- as typified by last year’s relatively peaceful industrial relations situation-will encourage more workers and establishments to consider CBA as a beneficial tool not only in determining conditions of employment but also in motivating workers to be productive.

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