Some 554 notices of strike were successfully disposed of by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in 2004 through conciliation-mediation, assumption of jurisdiction, and other efforts last year thus preserving employment, and boosting job-friendly investments, Labor and Employment Acting Secretary Manuel G. Imson today disclosed.

The acting labor and employment chief said that because of year-round efforts to mediate, settle, and resolve labor-management disputes, the DOLE in effect reduced the country’s actual strike rate by 96 percent to only 25 in 2004 –the lowest in 17 years.

On top of the successful resolution of 24 of the 25 strikes in 2004, Imson added that the rest of the 554 strike notices were successfully resolved through the following modes of disposition:

      Amicable Settlement – 439

      Assumption of Jurisdiction under Article 263 (g) of the Labor Code – 47

      Certification for Compulsory Arbitration under the same Article -36

      Archiving and other modes – 8

This develops as Imson refuted reports that the workers of 15 companies have “threatened” to go on strike in the first two weeks of January this year.

“This reflects a misunderstanding of the process of filing a lawful notice of strike which is part of the processes of industrial democracy in our country,” the acting labor and employment chief said.

Imson clarified that in filing a notice of strike or lockout before the DOLE, the parties involved, whether labor or management, are resorting to a legal mechanism and process covered by the Labor Code. “The notice of strike is required precisely to allow conciliation and mediation and other lawful modes of dispute resolution to settle the issues and avert the debilitating effects a strike and a prolonged dispute may have on both workers and employers.”

Under the Labor Code, responsible unionism and collective bargaining are encouraged –and the right of legitimate labor organizations to strike and picket, and of employers to lockout, recognized and respected.

Article 263 of the Code provides that in cases of bargaining deadlocks, the duly certified or recognized bargaining agent may file a notice of strike or the employer a notice of lockout with the DOLE at least 30 days before the intended date. In cases of unfair labor practice, on the other hand, the period of notice shall be 15 days. However, in case of dismissal from employment of duly elected union officers, the 15-day cooling off period shall not apply and the union may take action immediately.

The Labor Code requires that the notice of strike must be in accordance with the rules and regulations promulgated by the DOLE, adding, among others, that a decision to strike “must be approved by a majority of the total union membership in the bargaining unit concerned, obtained by secret ballot in meetings or referenda called for that purpose” which the DOLE may supervise. The law provides that “in every case, the union or the employer shall furnish the DOLE the voting at least seven days before the intended strike or lockout, subject to the cooling off period.”

Article 263 (g) then provides that “when, in his (/her) opinion, there exists a labor dispute causing or likely to cause a strike or lockout in an industry indispensable to the national interest, the Secretary of Labor and Employment may assume jurisdiction over the dispute…”

Meanwhile, the National Conciliation and Mediation Board apprised Imson that the strike at United Dockhandlers, Inc. in the National Capital Region (NCR), which was the sole remaining strike “carried over” from 2004, has been successfully settled on January 3, 2005.

Imson commended the NCMB for preventing labor management disputes from lingering by ensuring the amicable settlement of 17 notices of strike in the first two weeks of 2005, with the cooperation of union and management parties, in the following garments, electronics, pre-need services, and other companies:

NCR

        BF Life Insurance Corp.

        Lifetime Plans, Inc.

        Octagon Poly Industry

        United Asia Weaving & Trimming Mfg. Corp.

        China International Water & Electric Corp.

        Consolidated Garments Corp.

        DCT Holding Corp.

        Gelmart Industries Philippines Inc.

        Manila Jockey Club, Inc.

        Philippine Homecable Holdings, Inc.

        Sanyo Philippines

        Sarprime Estate Corporation

Region 4

        Movall Interiors, Inc.

        Nostalgia, Inc.

Region 8

        New Leyte Edible Oil Mills

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