In case there are issues between employers and employees, who has the power to hear and decide (jurisdiction) such issues? It is the Labor Arbiter under the NLRC.
What is a labor arbiter?
A labor arbiter is the National Labor Relations Commission’s (NLRC) representative in a RAB (Regional Arbitration Branch). They decide cases in behalf of the NLRC but their decisions are appealable to the NLRC itself sitting as any of its eight divisions.
What cases can be adjudicated by the labor arbiter?
In general, cases that can be head and decided by the labor arbiter are employment-related. These cases are as follows:
- Unfair labor practices (Art. 224 NLRC)
- Termination disputes (Art. 224 NLRC)
- Cases involving wages and terms and conditions of employment if accompanies with claim for reinstatement (Art. 224 NLRC)
- Claims for damages arising from employer-employee relationships (Art. 224 NLRC)
- Cases arising from the legality of strikes and lockouts, under Art. 279; (Art. 224 NLRC)
- Money claims arising out of employer-employee relationship or by virtue of any law or contract, involving Filipino workers for overseas deployment and claims for damages therefrom; (Art. 224 NLRC)
- Wage distortion disputes in unorganized establishments not voluntarily settled pursuant to RA 6727; (See Wage Rationalization Act)
- Enforcement of compromise agreements when there is non-compliance by any of the parties pursuant to Article 233 of the Labor Code
- Other cases provided under the law.
What is the nature of the proceedings before the Labor Arbiter?
Compulsory arbitrators. In general, the proceedings before the Labor Arbiter are non-litigious (NLRC Rules) and partake of the nature of compulsory arbitration. Compulsory arbitration is the process of settlement of disputes by a government agency that has the authority to investigate and to make an award that is binding on all the parties. (PAL vs. NLRC)
Voluntary arbitrators. However, if the parties decide to present the case to a voluntary arbitrator or panel, the voluntary arbitrator shall have primacy in the acquiring jurisdiction. In case of disputes concerning CBA implementation or personnel policy enforcement, voluntary arbitrators havve “original and exclusive” jurisdiction. Even though Art. 224 seems to render “exclusive” jurisdiction to labor arbiters, the law prefers voluntary arbitration instead of compulsory arbitration.
Where to file your case if it falls under the Labor Arbiter?
Rationale: The rationale for this is that the law on procedure relates more towards the convenience of the parties rather than the merits of the case. This is because of the well-entrenched principle in the Philippines that “the State shall afford full protection to labor.” Laborers are deemed to be the economically disadvantaged party whether as a complainant or respondent. The venue, then, must not burden the worker to the point that will virtually negate its claim.
For example, if the complainant employee’s workplace is in Bacolod City, he may file it before NLRC RAB VI.
“Workplace” means as the place where the employee is regularly assigned at the time that the cause of action arose. It is the place where the employee is expected to report back after a temporary work assignment or where they regularly receive their wages.
When venue is not objected before filing of position papers, such issue shall be deemed waived.
The venue may be changed upon written agreement of the parties or when the NLRC orders such or upon motion of the proper party in meritorious cases.
If the complainant is an OFW, he may file it before the RAB where he resides or where any of the respondents is situated, at the option of the OFW-complainant.
If the complainant works in a vessel or a bus, they may file a complaint in any of the RAB of the place where the vehicle stops or gets passengers. This is considered part of the complainant’s workplace.