A pharmaceutical company had one labor union representing all its rank-and-file employees. When their Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was set to expire in a few months, two union officers approached the Vice President (VP) of the Human Resources Department, inquiring about the future duration of their CBA. The VP informed them that it would be best to discuss all this during their formal negotiations. A month later, the labor officers approached the VP once again only to receive the same response. After another month, the officers requested for a meeting to discuss the duration and effectivity of the CBA. During the meeting, the officers asked if the company was amenable to making the new CBA effective for two (2) years. But, the VP only responded that the matter was still premature and that the company could not make a decision at the moment.
The very next day, all the rank-and-file employees of the company refused to follow their regular two-shift work schedule and started an overtime boycott. After working their first shift, employees would stop working and even “left their workplace without sealing the containers and securing the raw materials they were working on.” When the VP asked the employees why they refused to work, the employees told him to ask the union officers. A meeting was convened but the overtime boycott continued because the officers informed the VP that they would only return to work if their demands were met. In addition to the overtime boycott, the employees engaged in a work slowdown campaign.
After almost a year of overtime boycott and work slowdown, the company finally filed a petition before the National Labor Relations Commission to declare “the union’s overtime boycott and work slowdown as illegal as it amounted to an illegal strike.” The employees’ actions were found to amount to an illegal strike and the union directors lost their employment status. The decision was affirmed by the Court of Appeals.
Even on appeal, the Supreme Court (SC) found that the “evidence presented was equally crystal clear that the ‘overtime boycott’ and ‘work slowdown’ committed by the respondents amounted to illegal strike” since the members of the union decided not to render overtime services on their own volition as a means of coercing the company to accede to their unreasonable demands.
The SC also signified that the overtime boycott and work slowdown were done in violation of the employee’s CBA with their company since there was a stipulation prohibiting the “union or employee, during the existence of the CBA, to stage a strike or engage in slowdown or interruption of work.”
Moreover, citing Ilaw at Buklod ng Manggagawa v. NLRC, the SC reiterated that a workers’ “concerted refusal to adhere to the work schedule in force for the last several years, is a slowdown, an inherently illegal activity, essentially illegal even in the absence of a no-strike clause in a collective bargaining contract, or statute or rule” –
A slowdown is generally condemned as inherently illicit and unjustifiable, because while the employees continue to work and remain at their positions and accept the wages paid to them, they at the same time select what part of their allotted tasks they care to perform of their own volition or refuse openly or secretly, to the employer’s damage, to do other work; in other words, they work on their own terms (Interphil Lab Employees Union v. Interphil Lab, G.R. No. 142824, 19 December 2001, J. Kapunan).