Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Is it time to abolish the NLRC? (Part 1)

The National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) is a specialized quasi-judicial government agency that deals specifically with labor issues. Save for a few exceptions, any dispute relating to employer-employee relations will fall under NLRC jurisdiction.

Every time I have a case in the NLRC, I often remember what the late President Ramon Magsaysay used to say about social justice: "Those who have less in life should have more in law." In the entire landscape of the government burueacracy, the NLRC is undoubtedly the place where you can find the highest density of social justice on a per square inch basis. Every rule of this agency favors labor; from the filing of the complaint to the appeal of its rulings -- every step of the way is like a rose garden for labor and a bloody road for management.

Well, I know have to support the above assertion with facts, and I will do that as I proceed with this series, but let met just get this point out in the open: The NLRC is a big obstacle to economic progress. It is flawed in theory. It is flawed in practice. And if I had billions of dollars to invest in the Philippines, and I had one wish that the politicians in Congress would grant, that would be the abolition of this antiquated Marcosian legacy called the N.L.R.C.

1. False Premise. False Logic.

One of the hardest things to explain to a client who was been sued before the NLRC is the rule that the employer has the burden of proof in an illegal dismissal case. This means that if an employer dismisses an employee, and the employee goes to the NLRC, the dismissal is presumed to be illegal, unless the employer proves otherwise. In other words, if you were to compare an illegal dismissal case to a basketball game, labor has plus twenty points.

Pro-labor advocates defend this "handicap rule" on the premise that the employee is presumed to have less resources to engage in litigation, and capital or management has more resources to get in a legal fight. Thus, the handicap is meant to equalize the built in advantage, as it were, of capital. This is the biggest lie ever told in the history of the labor movement in this country.

Most certainly, not all employees are poor, and not all employers are rich. Just because a person has money to put up a business does not mean he has a built-in advantage in a labor case; and, most certainly, just because a person chose to be employed does not mean he has a disadvantge in a labor dispute.

The truth is for every Ayala corporation-style employer in this country, there are hundreds of thousands more employers struggling to survive. And if you put a budget item in their balance sheet for litigation expenses, most if not all of them, will not meet their payrolls and some would even close shop. And as I type this piece, I half-remember companies that closed shop because of a labor dispute gone awry. Rubberworld? Divine Word College? There are hundreds in the list -- sure-fire proofs that the premise of a pro-labor NLRC could be fatal to business.

And when an employer closes shop is that ever a victory for labor? Social Justice is a very fashionable catch phrase for our politicians, and they have been mouthing it for decades. But none had come up to ask the question: is the kind of social justice that we have here the reason why this country is in a rut? Could it be the reason why we have very few success stories in business?I'm ten years in labor litigation. I say yes, probably not the sole reason, but certainly one of the primary reasons.

(To be continuted)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

easy for you to say, if you have not yet been a victim of an unfair labor practice. I mean let's get real here, many cases in the NLRC have also been decided in favor of the employer.

What then is you alternative to the NLRC? straight to the courts? yea, that's not a problem as long as the relevant laws of the labor code are still retained...