By ALDWIN QUITASOL
As much as possible, settling a labor dispute should be more beneficial to the worker, but sometimes, the worker should also have good strategies to win their cases. Here is a case of a worker which is “grievable” (unionist’s term of winning a case in a grievance procedure). It lost ground because of technicality.
Aldo is working as one of the senior technicians in a productions company. One day, he was accused of stealing company property. The management said that one of his colleagues saw him put something on his bag.
The management issued a memorandum telling Aldo he would be put on a preventive suspension for 30 days to give way to the investigation on his alleged violation. After serving his suspension, Aldo reported to his manager and was told he could report but he could not be given his original job assignment in the meantime because someone has taken over his job. Angry, Aldo wanted to file an illegal suspension against the company. He refused to go back to work until his case was solved.
Aldo sought the advice of a labor lawyer. He was told that since they have a union, he should ask the assistance of their union’s grievance committee.
Aldo and representatives of the grievance committee wrote a letter to the management. They set a date for a grievance meeting with the management to settle Aldo’s case. Unfortunately, the letter did not reach the management and Aldo has no receiving copy of the letter. He forgot to have it officially received.
The workers’ union wrote again asking for another date for a grievance meeting. It is already on the second month that Aldo did not report to work. The management said that there is no more need to undergo such. They advised Aldo to report to work as his suspension was already lifted a month ago.
Aldo still refused and said that he would elevate his case to the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). He approached the lawyer but he was told that before he could file his case at the NLRC, he should have strong proof of lack of interest of the management to settle the issue.
Aldo went back to the grievance committee. It is already three months since he was called by the management to go back to work. They wrote again another letter to ask for a meeting. The management granted the request.
In the said grievance meeting, Aldo and his representatives presented their proposal for the settlement. They demanded that since Aldo was suspended illegally, he should be reinstated with full back wages for the three months he was not able to work. Aldo said that the company also had committed a constructive dismissal against him because he was on a floating status for a long time. They also stressed that the management should not employ any retaliatory action against Aldo.
The management representative said that Aldo was never suspended illegally. He said that Aldo was given a preventive suspension for a specific period prior to the investigation of his case and it is allowed in the Labor Code. For the alleged constructive dismissal, the management representative argued that the company did not commit such putting Aldo into a floating status. He said that the company in fact even called on Aldo to go back to work two times.
Prior to his job assignment, the representative said that it is a management discretion to put Aldo into an observation period. He said that since Aldo was accused of stealing company property, he should then prove that he is worthy to reclaim the company’s trust and confidence.
The representative then emphasized that the management should not give any back wages to Aldo. But out of gratitude to Aldo’s service to the company, Aldo can go back to work. The management representative said that the company has all the power to terminate him because can be considered to have committed an AWOL (Absence without official leave) for more than two months. #