Gov’t to appeal CA injunction against PLDT labor order

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MALACAÑANG and the Labor department are preparing to appeal an injunction issued by the Court of Appeals (CA) which froze an order to PLDT, Inc. to provide regular employment status to more than 7,000 workers.

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In a briefing on Monday, Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said: “The CA decision is being reviewed with a view to filing a motion for reconsideration.”

Mr. Bello added that the Office of the Solicitor General “agreed to represent DoLE” in seeking the motion.

Mr. Bello said the court ruling effectively freezes any move to recognize as regular employees more than 7,000 PLDT contractual workers.

Presidential Spokesman Herminio L. Roque said in a briefing on Monday that the executive branch was “saddened” by the CA’s intervention, and expressed hope that the Supreme Court will eventually see the DoLE order as a valid action by the executive branch.

PLDT had no comment on the government’s plans to seek reconsideration as of deadline time.

On July 31, the CA granted “an injunction against the regularization orders” of the Labor department, PLDT said in a statement on Monday.

In the 47-page decision signed by Associate Justice Edwin D. Sorongon, the CA said that Mr. Bello and PLDT’s union, Manggagawa sa Komunikasyon ng Pilipinas, “are ENJOINED from implementing, enforcing and/or executing” the compliance order and the resolutions issued by Mr. Bello.

The CA also instructed DoLE to “review and properly (determine) the monetary award on the labor standards violation of petitioner PLDT, Inc., and to conduct further appropriate proceedings, consistent with this Decision.”

DoLE issued a compliance order to PLDT on July 3, 2017. This was affirmed by the Labor secretary through resolutions he signed on January and April this year. The order and resolutions also called for the telco to pay almost P52 million in employee claims.

“The Court of Appeals agreed with PLDT’s contention that the Secretary’s regularization order was ‘tainted with grave abuse of discretion’ because it did not meet the ‘substantial evidence’ standards set out by the Supreme Court in landmark jurisprudence,” PLDT said in a statement following the granting of the injunction.

The CA found that PLDT was denied the right to submit its own evidence, and that claims made in the issuances “did not rise to the level of substantial evidence” and were “rendered not on the basis of the evidence presented at the hearing, or at least contained in the record and disclosed to the parties affected.”

The CA noted that DoLE’s regional director relied only on interviews with some workers and applied its findings to other workers who were not interviewed. “It is highly conjectural, if not purely speculative to consider the individual circumstances of some workers who were interviewed to be exactly similar to the factual circumstances pertaining to the other contractors’ workers.”

The court added that DoLE reached an “oversimplified conclusion that what is true for one is true as well for seven or eight others. The assailed issuances, without concrete evidence, simply assumed that every contractor’s worker is similarly, if not exactly, situated as with the rest,” and called some of the facts presented “anecdotal.”

“In the absence of facts supporting a general allegation or broad claim that employment relationship existed, the evidentiary standard could not be said to have been satisfied,” CA stressed.

The court also found that the compliance order “appears to have leaned in favor of the individuals deployed by the service contractors and against PLDT and the latter’s contractors,” suggesting partiality and bias on the part of the Labor secretary.

The CA, however, affirmed with certain modifications the resolutions signed by Mr. Bello in January and May. The CA ordered PLDT to offer regular status to “individuals performing functions and jobs that are usually necessary and desirable in the usual course of the business of the petitioner PLDT, Inc., specifically, as regards the installation, repair and maintenance of PLDT communication lines.”

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a majority stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Gillian M. Cortez