Full time teachers entitled to benefits even during semestral break

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justice1IN Pangasinan, full-time professors, instructors, and teachers of the university were employed. They taught for ten (10) months every school year, divided into two (2) semesters of five (5) months each, due to the school calendar. Although the two (2) months of summer vacation were excluded from their regular teaching schedules, they were paid their salaries on a regular monthly basis, including the months of summer.

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During the semestral break of 1981, however, the full time teachers were paid their regular monthly salary without their Emergency Cost of Living Allowances (ECOLA).

Consequently, the teachers filed suit against the university, as represented by their labor union. The university insisted that the teachers were not entitled to ECOLA during the semestral break of the school because the semestral break is not an integral part of the school year. There being no actual services rendered by the teachers during said period, the principle of “no work, no pay” applies.

The Supreme Court (SC) held that full time teachers were, in fact, entitled to ECOLA even during the semestral break when there are no classes, as provided for by PDs 1614, 1634, 1678, and 1713. In sum, the PDs state that “employees shall be paid in full the required monthly allowance regardless of the number of their regular working days if they incur no absences during the month” –
It is beyond dispute that the petitioner’s members are full-time employees receiving their monthly salaries irrespective of the number of working days or teaching hours in a month. However, they find themselves in a most peculiar situation whereby they are forced to go on leave during semestral breaks. These semestral breaks are in the nature of work interruptions beyond the employees control . . . As such, these breaks cannot be considered as absences within the meaning of the law for which deductions may be made from monthly allowances.

Moreover, the “no work, no pay” principle was found inapplicable –
It is clear from the aforequoted provision of law that it contemplates a “no work” situation where the employees voluntarily absent themselves. Petitioners, in the case at bar, certainly do not, ad voluntatem, absent themselves during semestral breaks.

Rather, they are constrained to take mandatory leave from work. For this they cannot be faulted nor can they be begrudged that which is due them under the law x x x x
The semestral break is an interruption beyond petitioner’s control and it cannot be used “effectively nor gainfully in the employee’s interest.” Thus, the semestral break may also be considered as “hours worked.” For this, the teachers are paid regular salaries and should be entitled to ECOLA. Not only do the teachers continue to work during this short recess but much less do they cease to live for which the cost of living allowance is intended. The legal principles of “no work, no pay; no pay, no ECOLA” must necessarily give way to the purpose of the law to augment the income of employees to enable them to cope with the harsh living conditions brought about by inflation, and to protect employees and their wages against the ravages brought by these conditions. Significantly, it is the commitment of the State to protect labor and to provide means by which the difficulties faced by the working force may best be alleviated. To submit to the respondents’ interpretation of the no work, no pay policy is to defeat this noble purpose, the Constitution and the law mandate otherwise (University of Pangasinan Faculty Union v. University of Pangasinan, G.R. No. L-63122, 20 February 1984, J. Gutierrez, Jr.).

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