Dole Philippines, Inc. vs. Pawis ng Makabayang Obrero

G.R. No. 146650. January 13, 2003

FACTS:

In 1996, five-year Collective Bargaining Agreement for 1996 – 2001 was executed by petitioner Dole Philippines, Inc., and private respondent Pawis Ng Makabayang Obrero-NFL (PAMAO-NFL). One of the provisions of CBA provides that “Company agrees to grant a MEAL ALLOWANCE of TEN PESOS (P10.00) to all employees who render at least TWO (2) hours or more of actual overtime work on a workday, and FREE MEALS, as presently practiced, not exceeding TWENTY FIVE PESOS (P25.00) after THREE (3) hours of actual overtime work.”

Some departments of DOLE continued continued the practice of granting free meals only after more than three hours of overtime work.

PAMAO-NFL filed a complaint before the National Conciliation and Mediation Board alleging that petitioner Dole refused to comply with the provisions of the 1996-2001 CBA because it granted free meals only to those who rendered overtime work for more than three hours and not to those who rendered exactly three hours overtime work.

Petitioner asserts that the phrase “after three (3) hours of actual overtime work” does not mean after exactly three hours of actual overtime work; it means after more than three hours of actual overtime work. Petitioner insists that this has been the interpretation and practice of Dole for the past thirteen years. Petitioner claims that, being the employer, it has the right to determine whether it will grant a “free meal” benefit to its employees and, if so, under what conditions. To see it otherwise would amount to an impairment of its rights as an employer.

The voluntary arbitrator decided in favor of respondent. The Court of Appeals rendered its decision upholding the assailed order.

ISSUES:

(a) WON an employee shall be entitled to free meals exactly, or no less than, three hours of actual overtime work  under the CBA

(b) WON in accordance to principle of management prerogative that “the power to grant benefits over and beyond the minimum standards of law, or the Labor Code for that matter, belongs to the employer

HELD:

(a) YES. The disputed provision of the CBA is clear and unambiguous. The terms are explicit and the language of the CBA is not susceptible to any other interpretation. Hence, the literal meaning of “free meals after three (3) hours of overtime work” shall prevail, which is simply that an employee shall be entitled to a free meal if he has rendered exactly, or no less than, three hours of overtime work, not “after more than” or “in excess of” three hours overtime work.

(b) NO. The exercise of management prerogative is not unlimited. It is subject to the limitations found in law, a collective bargaining agreement or the general principles of fair play and justice. This situation constitutes one of the limitations. The CBA is the norm of conduct between petitioner and private respondent and compliance therewith is mandated by the express policy of the law.

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