Thursday, June 08, 2006

The False Premise in Action (Is it time to abolish the NLRC? Part 2)

Time was when this country was ruled by statesmen who divided it into two: the haves and the have-nots, and built the government on this premise. In the field of labor administration, the division is between the capitalists-enterpreneurs and the workers. And because the fictional exemplar of labor is the oppressed, poverty-stricken worker, labor administration tilts heavily in favor of labor.

Yet, as stated a post ago, the premise is greatly flawed, because this country is not just ran by capitalists and workers. A big number of people defy classification: workers who double as enterpreneurs, enterpreneurs who work for their business, and people who are neither enterprenuers or workers, but somehow get involved in this class dichotomy. The saddest part is the people in the middle outnumber those in the opposite extremes combined. Thus, to govern labor relations on the premise of this monochromatic thinking is to ignore the vast majority who is trapped in the middle.

Let's examine how this flawed thinking is implemented by the NLRC with disastrous results.

When an employee sues his employer, all he has to do is fill-out a mimeographed form, check the boxes in the form to indicate his causes of action, sign it and it is all over in a few minutes. No lawyers required. Immediately, the case is deemed commenced, and the employer is summoned for a hearing.

While I don't have anything agaisnt efficiency, I think this kind of out-of-the-box procedure is a great contributor to the great number of whimsical cases that clog the dockets of the NLRC. Hardly anybody thinks about what they put in those forms. I once received a labor complaint, where the complainant checked all the boxes for unpaid wages, holiday pay, and thirteenth month pay, when the truth was he was fully paid for all his services, and his principal cause of action was that of illegal dismissal only. When examined during the labor conference, the fool admitted having checked those boxes because he thought that by checking them he would still be entitled to them.

Yet, if for example, it was the employer who had a cause of action against his employee, the employer will have to hire a lawyer, who will counsel the employer on whether it is worth it to file a case. It is only after the lawyer and the employer have examined their position that a decision to file a case or not is made. And if the decision is to file a case, the lawyer has to draft a complaint specific to the causes of action. The entire procedure allows the employer to contemplate about the course of action knowing that filing a case has its burden.

Sadly, as the NLRC's existence is premised on making things easy for labor, labor complainants have hardly anytime to contemplate on their decision to file a case. The result is a build up of pointless cases before the NLRC. These pointless cases not only clog the dockets but cost millions of pesos in fees and management time of employers, millions that could have been better used to improve working conditions of the other employees back in the office.

Efficiency has its costs. They made it easy for people to complain, so they got flooded with complaints. It's the false premise in action.

(To be continued)

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