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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Compromise of Money Claims Is Personal Right

Money claims due to laborers cannot be the object of settlement or compromise effected by a union or counsel without the specific individual consent of each laborer concerned. The beneficiaries are the individual complainants themselves. The union to which they belong can only assist them, but cannot decide for them. Awards in favor of laborers after long years of litigation must be attended to with mutual openness and in the best of faith. Only thus can we really give meaning to the constitutional mandate of giving laborers maximum protection and security.

The union officers' authority to compromise must be presented in evidence.

A judgment based on a compromise agreement authorized by the members does not bind the individual members or complainants who are not parties thereto nor signatories therein. (Kaisahan ng mga Manggagawa sa La Campana vs. Sarmiento, 133 SCRA 220 [1984])

Under the philosophy of collective responsibility, an employer who bargains in good faith should be entitled to rely upon the promises and agreements of the union representatives with whom he must deal under the compulsion of law and contract. The collective bargaining process should be carried on between parties who can mutually respect and rely upon the authority of each other. Where, however, collective bargaining process is not involved, and what is at stake are backwages already earned by the individual workers by way of overtime, premium and differential pay, and final judgment has been rendered in their favor, as in the present case, the real parties in interest with direct material interest, as against the union which has only served as a vehicle for collective action to enforce their just claims, are the individual workers themselves.

Authority of the union to waive or quit claim all or part of the judgment award in favor of the individual workers cannot be lightly presumed, but must be expressly granted, and the employer, as judgment debtor, must deal in all good faith with the union as the agent of the individual workers.

The court in turn should certainly verify and assure itself the fact and extent of the authority of the union leadership to execute any compromise or settlement of the judgment on behalf of the individual workers who are the real judgment creditors. (Heirs of Teodolo M. Cruz vs. Court of Industrial Relations, 30 SCRA 917 [1969])

In another case, the Court noted that the complainant union members had not ratified the Return-to-Work Agreement. It follows that they cannot be held bound by the Return-to-Work Agreement. The waiver of money claims, which in this case were accrued money claims, by workers and employees must be regarded as a personal right, that is, a right that must be personally exercised.

For a waiver thereof to be legally effective, the individual consent or ratification of the workers or employees involved must be shown. Neither the officers nor the majority of the union had any authority to waive the accrued rights pertaining to the dissenting minority members, even under a collective bargaining agreement which provided for a "union shop."

The same consideration of public policy which impelled the Court to reach the conclusion it did in Manggagawa sa La Campana vs. Sarmiento (133 SCRA 220) are equally compelling in the present case. The members of the union need the protective shield of this doctrine not only vis-a-vis their employer, but also, at times, vis-a-vis the management of their own union, and at other times even against their own imprudence or impecuniousness. (General Rubber and Footwear Corp. vs. Drilon, 169 SCRA 808 [1989])


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