Almirante: Seafarer's enexpired contract-A A +A
Labor case Digest
Saturday, August 24, 2013
ON Jan. 31, 2002, petitioner Lorenzo T. Tangga-an entered into an overseas employment contract with respondent Philippine Transmarine Carriers, Inc. (PTC) for and on behalf of its foreign employer, Universe Tankship Delaware, LLC. Under the employment contract, he was to be employed for six months as chief engineer of the vessel the S.S. Kure.
Unsatisfied with petitioner’s performance, respondent terminated his services and repatriated him to the Philippines on April 4, 2002.
Tangga-an filed a complaint against respondent for illegal dismissal with a prayer for payment of salaries for the unexpired portion of his contract, leave pay, exemplary and moral damages, attorney’s fees and interest.
When the case reached the Court of Appeals (CA), it affirmed the decisions of the Labor Arbiter and the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) finding illegal dismissal but ruled that Tangga-an was entitled only to three months’ salary representing the unexpired portion of his contract. Did the Court of Appeals err?
At this juncture, the courts, especially the CA, should be reminded to read and apply the Supreme Court’s labor pronouncements with utmost care and caution, taking to mind that in the very heart of the judicial system, labor cases occupy a special place.
More than the State guarantees of protection of labor and security of tenure, labor
disputes involve the fundamental survival of the employees and their families, who depend upon the former for all the basic necessities in life.
Thus, petitioner must be awarded his salaries corresponding to the unexpired portion
of his six-month employment contract, or equivalent to four months. This includes all his corresponding monthly vacation leave pay and tonnage bonuses, which are expressly provided and guaranteed in his employment contract as part of his monthly salary and
These benefits were guaranteed to be paid on a monthly basis and were not made contingent. In fact, their monetary equivalent was fixed under the contract:
US$2,500.00 for vacation leave pay and US$700 for tonnage bonus each month. Thus, petitioner is entitled to back salaries of US$32,800 (or US$5,000 + US$2,500 + US$700 = US$8,200 x 4 months).
“Article 279 of the Labor Code mandates that an employee’s full back wages shall be inclusive of allowances and other benefits or their monetary equivalent.”
As the Supreme Court has time and again held, “it is the obligation of the employer to pay an illegally dismissed employee or worker the whole amount of the salaries or wages, plus all other benefits and bonuses and general increases, to which he would have been normally entitled had he not been dismissed and had not stopped working.”
This well-defined principle has likewise been lost on the CA in the consideration of the case. (Lorenzo T. Tangga-an vs. Philippine Transmarine Carriers, Inc., Universe Tankship Delaware LLC, and Carlos C. Salinas, G.R. No. 180636, March 13, 2013).
(Almirante is a former labor arbiter.)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 25, 2013.