Issue of June 18, 2017
     
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DOLE’s single entry approach

Twenty-six-year-old single mom Amy works for a popular jeans company in one of Baguio’s popular malls. She came to the Department of Labor and Employment regional office to file a complaint against the company she worked for. She sought assistance with regards to the unclear reasons for her termination and the payment of her separation pay.

Amy was employed with the company for four years and six months. According to her former co-employees, she was sacked because she got pregnant.

Getting pregnant out of wedlock is not a ground for the dismissal of an employee, according to the Supreme Court when it reversed a Court of Appeals decision that affirmed the dismissal of an employee of a company on the grounds of pre-marital sexual relations and pregnancy outside of marriage.

The SC ruled: “There is no law which penalizes an unmarried mother by reason of her sexual conduct or proscribes consensual sexual activity between two unmarried persons. Such conduct is not denounced by public and secular morality. It may be an unusual arrangement, but it certainly is not disgraceful or immoral within the contemplation of the law.”

The High Tribunal said the right of an employee to security of tenure is protected by the constitution and that under the Labor Code, a regular employee may not be dismissed unless for cause.

Amy’s request for assistance was referred to a Single Entry Approach desk officer (SEADO) who assisted her. The company was invited for a conciliation mediation meeting and was represented by the legal counsel and after discussions and considerations both parties agreed resolve the case amicably. Amy was paid her dues including her Social Security System maternity benefits.

The single entry approach (SEnA) is a labor dispute settlement system through an alternative dispute resolution using the 30-day conciliation mediation of all labor cases. It strengthens efforts to provide speedy, impartial, inexpensive, and accessible labor dispute settlement services. It also strengthens cooperation and coordination among DOLE agencies involved in dispute settlement.

Under the SEnA, complaints or requests for assistance from parties are acted upon through conciliation, preventing full-blown disputes and instead promote industrial peace and labor empowerment. If a complaint is not settled within 30 days, the same is referred to the appropriate office of the DOLE.

Conciliation-mediation is done by SEADOs who are trained to fast-track settlement of all labor and employment cases, also called Requests For Assistance (RFA), brought before them.

The SEnA rules of procedure is applicable to such cases as termination or suspension of employment issues; claims for any sum of money, regardless of amount; intra-union and inter-union issues, except petition for certification election, after exhaustion of administrative remedies; unfair labor practice; closures, retrenchments, redundancies, temporary lay-offs; OFW cases; occupational safety and health standards issues, except those involving imminent danger situations; issues arising from other labor and related issuances; any other claims arising from employer-employee relationship; and cases falling under the administrative and quasi-judicial jurisdiction of all DOLE offices and attached agencies such as the National Labor Relations Commission. However, notices of strikes or lockouts, or preventive mediation cases will not be covered by the rules and will remain within the jurisdiction of the National Conciliation and Mediation Board.

What issues are not covered by SEnA? Issues arising from the interpretation or implementation of the collective bargaining agreement and those arising from interpretation or enforcement of company personnel policies which should be processed through grievance machinery and voluntary arbitration; and issues involving violations of the following permits, licenses or registrations: Alien Employment Permit, Private Recruitment and Placement Agency authority or license, working child permit and violations of Anti-Child Labor Law, registration under Department Order 18-02, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration-issued licenses under the Migrant Workers’ Act, as amended, professional license issued by the Professional Regulation Commission, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority accreditations; and other similar permits, licenses or registrations issued by the DOLE or its attached agencies.

On the other hand, complaints or requests for assistance through a letter, e-mail, or referral shall be allowed but complainants will be likewise required to personally appear pursuant to the rules. In cases where there are anonymous complaints or requests for assistance, the SEADO shall initiate verification by requesting an interview with the respondent to facilitate compliance or correction, if there are violations. Should the respondent refuse or fail to appear during the interview, a directive shall be issued by the head of the DOLE for the immediate inspection of the subject establishment. Any violation or correction discovered during the inspection shall be subjected to conciliation-mediation.

Only unresolved issues shall be referred either for voluntary arbitration to the NCMB, if both parties so agree, or compulsory arbitration to the NLRC or to the POEA, in the case of land-based and sea-based OFWs who might have some issues with their recruitment agencies or foreign employers.

The SEnA desk officers exercise the right to validate the arguments of both parties. In the conciliation-mediation process there is no hard and fast rule. The bottomline should be that both parties agree as to how and why and DOLE’s role is to attest what they have agreed upon.

An aggrieved employee Amy file or request for SenA in the region where the employer principally operates. In case of a union or federation representing a local chapter, the request shall be made at the regional/provincial/ district office where the union or local chapter is registered.

For labor relations disputes, particularly illegal dismissals with or without claim for reinstatement, unfair labor practices, strikes and lockouts and claims for damages, shall be filed with the labor arbiter of the NLRC-regional arbitration branch.

For more information on the SEnA or RFA visit www.dole.gov.ph and/or the Bureau of Labor Relations @ blr.dole.gov.ph.

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