The labor dispute at Sun Ever Light Inc., has been scheduled for compulsory arbitration with the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) on January 24, 2004, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) today said as it called on both the union and management to cooperate in resolving their differences.

Earlier, Labor and Employment Secretary Patricia A. Sto. Tomas reaffirmed her order certifying the instant labor dispute for compulsory arbitration to the NLRC.

In its motion filed on October 5, 2004, the Sun Ever Light Union (independent) contended that the Office of the Secretary committed grave abuse of discretion when it assumed jurisdiction over the labor dispute alleging that the order deprived the union of due process on account of absence of notice and hearing.

The union further manifested that the assumption power of the Secretary curtailed its rights to concerted activities and free collective bargaining, adding that the company is not an industry indispensable to national interest.

Likewise, the company also filed its motion for reconsideration on October 7, 2004 saying the Office of the Secretary committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction or excess of jurisdiction alleging that the certification order to the NLRC was not necessary as there are still original suits pending before the Court of Appeals.

Sto. Tomas said the order for compulsory arbitration by her office is in consonance with the mandate of law as the power lodged with the Secretary of Labor is pursuant to the inherent police power by the State.

Citing the ruling of the Supreme Court in the case of Calalang vs. Williams, 70 Phil. 726: “this is the police power, and in its exercise, the State may interfere with personal liberty, with property, and with business and occupations,” she said.

Sto. Tomas also stated that in the case of PLDT vs. City of Davao, G.R. No. 1-23080, 30 October 1965, the Supreme Court held that: ” the scope of police power cannot be fixed by traditional delineations; it is elastic and must be responsive to various social conditions; it is not confined within the narrow circumscriptions of precedents resting on past conditions; it must follow the legal processes of a democratic way of life.”

With respect to the issue of determining industries indispensable to national interest and which can be subject of the assumption of jurisdiction powers, Sto. Tomas cited a ruling of the Supreme Court stating that the ” the Labor Code vests upon the Secretary of Labor the discretion to determine what industries are indispensable to national interest. Thus, upon the determination of the Secretary of Labor that such industry is indispensable to national interest, it will assume jurisdiction over the labor dispute of said industry.”

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