Union disunion


Ernesto F. Herrera

“Conflict is an ever- present process in human relations” (Loomis and Loomis, 1965) Conflicts occur every day, everywhere, and many times how peoples and organizations deal with such conflicts only exacerbates the original problem.

Labor unions are no different from any other organizations. They too have their share of conflicts. This is precisely why each union has its own constitution and bylaws, which must be followed so that its leaders and members should be so guided in resolving conflicts when they arise.

The union’s constitution must be the guiding principle in piloting the affairs of the union. At times, political and government interference can only worsen an intra-union conflict that would otherwise be easily resolvable just by following the union’s constitution and bylaws, which protects the union against the oligarchic tendencies of its own leaders.

I’ve written about the case of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines only once in this corner.

The TUCP has its own constitution, which spells out detailed procedures on how its affairs are to be conducted. Conflicting claims of two sets of officials of the union should be resolved according to the rules and provisions of this constitution.

The TUCP constitution specifically and simply states that when the union president resigns, the secretary general takes over as president.

The TUCP constitution is clear and unambiguous in this regard. There is no actual intra-union controversy that must be settled through the interference of the government.
Hence, we believe, that the Bureau of Labor Relations of the Labor Department acted with grave abuse of discretion when it exercised motu propio jurisdiction over the constitutional succession of the TUCP secretary general upon the resignation of the president.

We believe that in order to ensure the integrity of a labor union as instruments of labor in its quest for the common good of its members, it is better that jurisdiction to decide questions involving its own affairs, including its internal operations, be left according to the union’s constitution.

The Labor department, through the BLR, tried to assume jurisdiction over a controversy where none exists, and this is why we filed a complaint with the Ombudsman against labor officials.

Moreover, the BLR went against the provisions of the Labor Code and the International Labor Organization Convention No. 87 when it issued a permanent mandatory injunction order or a status quo ante order, even directing that a special convention be called by the TUCP.

The Labor Code promotes free, unbridled trade unionism and fosters free and voluntary organization of the labor movement.

Under the ILO Convention No. 87, which was adopted by the Philippine government way back in 1953, workers organizations shall have the right to draw up their own constitutions and rules to elect their representatives, and public authorities shall refrain from interfering or impeding in the lawful exercise of these rules.

The BLR injunction not only intervenes but contravenes the provision of the TUCP constitution on lawful succession. It invalidates the president’s resignation and the assumption of the secretary general upon his resignation as required by the TUCP constitution. It also called for a special convention when there is nothing in the TUCP constitution that requires a special convention in cases of resignation of officers.

If this is how the BLR will exercise its authority to act on all inter-union and intra-union conflicts, then expect more conflict, chaos and disagreements.

Let the union’s own rules dictate how it will conduct its own affairs, as reflected in the ILO Freedom of Association Convention, and as practiced in a democratic society like the Philippines.


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