Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz has directed the regional directors of DOLE-NCR, Central Visayas, and Davao to verify the veracity of the agreements entered into by members the Union of Labor Service Cooperatives (ULSC) and their individual coop members deployed as employees of the union’s member-sub-contractors in the said regions, on the latter’s alleged approval not to withdraw or seek refund of their capital shares in the cooperatives which have been deducted from their wages prior to the issuance of Labor Advisory Nos. 11 and 11-A.
The Secretary’s directive came after the ULSC, an association composed of cooperatives engaged in contracting/subcontracting, upon a court order, has submitted to the DOLE copies of the Memorandum of Agreements (MOAs) between its primary cooperatives and their individual member-employees stating that the latter have no intention of withdrawing or seeking the refund of their cooperative capital shares.
The MOAs also provide that while cooperative member-employees have the obligation to contribute in the capital build-up of the cooperatives, the primary cooperatives shall henceforth refrain from directly deducting capital contributions from the wages of their members and devise a way of ensuring voluntary contributions without violating the provisions of the Labor Code, as amended, particularly on prohibition of withholding of wages.
Secretary Baldoz issued Labor Advisory Nos. 11 and 11-A in September and November 2014, respectively, reiterating the guiding principle under the Labor Code, as amended, that no employer shall limit or interfere with the freedom of the employees to dispose of their wages.
The said advisories clarify what are the allowable deductions from wages and the conditions for such deductions.
Labor Advisory No. 11 provides that wages illegally deducted from workers shall be refunded to them within 30 days from the issuance of the advisory, or within a period agreed upon by the employer and employees after conciliation-mediation proceedings under the DOLE’s Single Entry (SEnA) Approach mechanism.
On the other hand, Labor Advisory No. 11-A extended the 30-day period to six months under specific circumstances.
“We are here to enforce the provisions of the Labor Code to protect our workers. Under the Labor Code, it is unlawful for any person, directly or indirectly, to withhold any amount from the wages of a worker or induce him to give up any part of his wages by force, stealth, intimidation, threat, or by another means whatsoever without the worker’s consent,” Baldoz said, adding:
“Likewise, it is unlawful to make any deduction from the wages of any employee for the benefit of the employer or his representative or intermediary as consideration of a promise of employment or retention in employment.”
But the ULSC questioned the DOLE advisories in a Quezon City Court. In December 2014, it filed Petition for Declaratory Relief with Prayer for the Issuance of TRO, asking the Court to declare some provisions of the advisories unconstitutional and without force and effect.
The RTC deferred action on the prayer for the issuance of TRO and instead ordered the UCLS to file with the DOLE a request for extension of time to prepare and submit an agreement between the primary cooperatives and their individual member-employees in relation to their compliance with the Labor Advisories. The UCLS has submitted the MOAs to the DOLE.
Then on 10 April 2015, Judge Rosanna Fe Romero Maglaya of Quezon City RTC Branch 88, directed the UCLS and DOLE to report to the Court the status of the proposal of UCLS on its compliance with Labor Advisories 11 and 11-A.
On its own, the DOLE undertook to defer taking action against said cooperatives for the purpose of enforcing the provisions of Labor Advisory Nos. 11 and 11-A while the primary cooperatives under UCLS are meeting with their member-employees to come up with a consensus and agreement.