Almirante: Grant of bonuses-A A +A
Saturday, July 7, 2012
RESPONDENT Eastern Telecoms Employees’ Union (ETEU) is the certified exclusive bargaining agent of the rank-and-file employees of petitioner Eastern Telecommunications Phils., Inc. (ETPI).
ETPI planned to defer payment of the 2003 14th, 15th and 16th month bonuses sometime in April 2004 due to continuing deterioration of their financial position. Such postponement would also be subject to availability of funds.
In opposing ETPI’s plan, ETEU invoked the Side Agreement of their Collective Bargaining Agreement for the period 2001-2004, which reads: “4. Employment Related Bonuses. The Company confirms that the 14th, 15th and 16th month bonuses (other than 13th month pay) are granted.”
Is ETPI liable to pay said month bonuses?
A reading of the above provision reveals that the same provides for the giving of 14th, 15th and 16th month bonuses without qualification.
The wording of the provision does not allow any other interpretation. There were no conditions specified in the CBA Side Agreements for the grant of the benefits, contrary to the claim of ETPI that the same is justified only when there are profits earned by the company.
Terse and clear, the said provision does not state that the subject bonuses shall be made to depend on the ETPI’s financial standing or that their payment was contingent upon the realization of profits. Neither does it state that if the company derives no profits, no bonuses are to be given to the employees. In fine, the payment of these bonuses was not related to the profitability of business operations.
The records are also bereft of any showing that the ETPI made it clear before or during the execution of the Side Agreements that the bonuses shall be subject to any condition.
Indeed, if ETPI and ETEU intended that the subject bonuses would be dependent on the company earnings, such intention should have been expressly declared in the Side Agreements or the bonus provision should have been deleted altogether.
In the absence of any proof that ETPI’s consent was vitiated by fraud, mistake or duress, it is presumed that it entered into the Side Agreements voluntarily, that it had full knowledge of the contents thereof and that it was aware of its commitment under the contract.
Verily, by virtue of its incorporation in the CBA Side Agreements, the grant of 14th, 15th and 16th month bonuses has become more than just an act of generosity on the part of ETPI but a contractual obligation it has undertaken.
Moreover, the continuous conferment of bonuses by ETPI to the union members from 1998 to 2002 by virtue of the Side Agreements evidently negates its argument that the giving of the subject bonuses is a management prerogative. (Eastern Telecommunications Philippines, Inc. vs. Eastern Telecoms Employees Union, G.R. No. 185665, Feb. 8, 2012).
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 07, 2012.