The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) finally resolved on Friday the labor dispute at the Hacienda Luisita, ordering the management to pay its workers of their unpaid salaries and granting wage adjustments covering the fourth and fifth years of their collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

The resolution is expected to ease the simmering dispute and end the two months stand off between the management and the labor union.

In the 10-page resolution signed by Labor and Employment Secretary Patricia A. Sto. Tomas, the Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) management was also told to immediately pay each covered employee of a one-time lump sum of P12,500.

In effect, each employee will receive an additional P2,340 to their salary for six months retroactive to July 1, 2004, covering the fourth year of the CBA after the first three years of the 2001-2006 CBA expired on June 30, 2004. In all, they will receive P14,840 outside their unpaid salaries.

Also, CAT Labor Union (CATLU) members who participated in the strike were ordered to report back to work within five days from the time the parties received their copies of the decision.

The management, on the other hand, was directed to immediately accept the striking union members without retaliatory action.

“CAT shall immediately pay the unpaid wages and other benefits due the striking workers which were accrued by them prior to the strike,” Sto. Tomas said.

CATLU officers who participated in the strike, however, have been dismissed after the strike, which started November 6, 2004, was deemed illegal.

Citing a Supreme Court ruling in Pinero v. National Labor Relations Commission, G.R. No. 149610 dated August 20, 2004, the decision stated that “the requisites for a valid strike are as follows: (a) a notice of strike filed with the DOLE thirty days before the intended date thereof or fifteen days in case of unfair labor practice; (b) strike vote approved by a majority of the total union membership in the bargaining unit concerned obtained by secret ballot in a meeting called for that purpose; (c) notice given to the DOLE of the results of the voting at least seven days before the intended strike. These requirements are mandatory and failure of a union to comply therewith renders the strike illegal.”

Except for the filing of a notice of strike, CATLU did not comply with the rest of the mandatory requirements, according to the decision.

Only one CATLU officer, union Director Jessie P. Manliclic, was spared from the dismissal because he returned to work on November 14, 2004.

Although they did not heed the return-to-work order which was earlier issued by the DOLE, union members who participated in the strike were also excluded from those who were deemed to have lost their employment status because “it appears that the members… were misled into believing that their right to strike was unlimited and that their refusal to return to work was not illegal, or at least had no adverse consequences.”

“The situation of the members does not satisfy the test of “knowing participation” which the law prescribes as a condition for loss of employment status,” the resolution stated.

Meanwhile, the separate case involving the Hacienda Luisita Inc. and the United Luisita Workers’ Union (ULWU) remains in the process of settlement. Hearings have been scheduled at the National Labor Relations Commission on January 18 and 20.

Sto. Tomas said she was also hopeful that the case would also be settled soon to finally ease the tension and bring back the normal life at the Hacienda.

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