Call to SC: En banc review of Dusit case after notable rulings in Baguio

AFTER the groundbreaking decisions on the party list and oil deregulation laws during its summer sessions in Baguio City, the Supreme Court is again being asked to convene en banc to review the now becoming infamous “shaved heads are illegal strike” ruling by its Second Division last November.

Although the SC justices are still in Baguio, members of different trade unions and other mass organizations picketed today the Supreme Court as part of their series of actions to press the high court to reverse its finding that uphold the dismissal of Dusit Hotel Nikko workers for allegedly staging an “illegal strike” by going to work with shaven heads.

In January 2002 Dusit prevented its workers from reporting to work – after many male staff cropped their hairs in protest of management’s dilatory tactics in the collective bargaining negotiations – forcing them to hold a picket outside the hotel. Dusit later terminated 90 of them, including 29 union officers, and suspended 136 others, among them were women and other males who did not even cut their hairs but were union members.

Highlights in the unprecedented verdict penned by Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. include the assertion that violation of the Dusit’s “grooming standards” had caused disruptions in the hotel’s operations and thus tantamount to an “unprotected” (by law) mass action “and should be considered as an illegal strike.”

Similarly, the Velasco ruling declared that when the employees went to work with shaven heads, there was “clearly a deliberate and concerted action to undermine the authority of and to embarrass” Dusit and, “therefore, not a protected action.”

These and other grounds cited in the said ruling on the Dusit case are now part of the Philippine jurisprudence as G.R. 163942 and G.R. 166295.

But what at first a lonely and tough battle for the Nuwhrain-Dusit Hotel Nikko Chapter (N-DHNC) against the illegal lockout and union-busting actions of the Dusit Hotel – as well as the ensuing pro-management rulings of the DOLE’s National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), the former 8th Division of the Court of Appeals (CA), and finally the SC’s 2nd Division – has become a fight also of various organizations of workers and other sectors from across the political spectrum.

Calling the Velasco ruling as a “travesty of justice,” a “dangerous precedent” and a form of “judicial legislation,” which has wide-ranging repercussions to the broader human, labor and trade union rights – including the freedom of expression and to peaceful concerted actions – a motley group of trade unionists and other advocacy groupings have met and planned for joint campaigns to overturn that “outrageous” court decision.

Aside from regular pickets at the Supreme Court and other mass actions, this loose and nameless alliance has already filed motions for reconsiderations (MR) and motions for interventions (MI) – including those representing each the private and public sector unions.

Signatories for the first MI of unions in the private sector are the Alliance of Coca-Cola Unions-Philippines (ACCUP), Automotive Industry Workers Alliance (AIWA), League of Independent Bank Organizations (LIBO), Manggagawa sa Komunikasyon ng Pilipinas (MKP), National Alliance of Broadcast Unions (NABU), National Labor Union (NLU), Pinag-Isang Tinig at Lakas ng Anakpawis (PIGLAS), Philippine Metalworkers’ Alliance (PMA), and Workers’ Solidarity Network (WSN).

In the public sector unions, those who initially signed the MI include the Confederation of Independent Unions in the Public Sector (CIU), Postal Employees Union of the Philippines (PEUP), Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK), and the Union of Statistics Employees (USE).

Other groups that filed their separate MI include Cebu-based labor unions, led by the Bank of the Philippine Islands Cebu Employees Independent Union, in Bohol, the University of Bohol Employees Union and in Cagayan De Oro City, the Nestle Workers in Cagayan De Oro Factory. Davao Holcim Employees and Workers’ Union (DAHEWU) and Holy Cross of Davao College Faculty Union (HCDCFU) in Davao. Even the Archdiocesan Ministry for Labor Concerns (AMLC) of the Archdiocese of Manila has also filed an MI for the Dusit union case.

The Dusit case has also been discussed in a forum sponsored by the International Labor Organization (ILO) in Manila, and several global union federations (GUFs) are already aware of this case.

The Dusit Hotel union is affiliated with the National Union of Workers in Hotel, Restaurant and Allied Industries (NUWHRAIN), which in turn is a member of the national labor center Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL). Likewise, NUWHRAIN is an affiliate of the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF), a GUF.

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