Picketing caddies

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Friday, February 14, 2014


THE last time I’ve been in a golf course was more than 30 years ago and I was not even playing. Some Rotarian friends invited me to watch them play in an ill-disguised attempt to convince me that driving to the fairway was a lot more challenging than hitting a topspin towards the edge of the baseline. I went along only because the food at the old Club Filipino was good so the courtship was doomed from the start. I never got to play golf.

But I know enough of the game from reading and from watching tournaments on television especially when Tiger Woods is playing. I know a little about caddies, even the names of some famous ones or, perhaps, more accurately, the ones with famous clients such as Mike “Fluff” Cowan, the one with the bushy white beard, who caddied for Jim Furyk after Tiger Woods dumped him in favor of the ingrate (see, I am a Tiger fan), Steve
Williams.

A caddy carries the golfer’s bag. I’m not sure if he also carries the player’s umbrella (not too long ago, this chore was reserved for “umbrella girls” who were a hit in at least one Cebu golf club until the ladies started checking on their golfing husbands). He also discusses with the golfer the driving distance, the choice of clubs (wood or iron?), wind direction and speed. Others, like the infamous Williams, shove away obtrusive fans.

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In the professional circuit there is absolutely no doubt who is boss and who is the “alalay,” who is the employer and who is the employee. Some people believe that it is
not as clear in the case of those who do not play golf for a living.

The question of who employs the caddy appears to be at the core of the current controversy at the Cebu Country Club where some 100 caddies continue to picket in protest of the club’s new accreditation policies. The caddies, who are being supported by the Associated Labor Union (ALU), apparently believe that they are CCC’s employees.

On the other hand, Julius Neri, the club’s lawyer, denies that such an employer-employee relationship exists. Whose claim is supported by jurisprudence?

In Manila Golf & Country Club (MGCC) versus Intermediate Appellate Court and Fermin Llamar (G.R. No. 64948), a similar question was raised: “whether or not persons rendering caddying services for members of golf clubs and their guests on said clubs’ courses or premises are the employees of such clubs.”

The IAC had earlier ruled, using the “control test” that the caddies were employees of the club, taking into account MGCC’s “promulgation of no less than twenty four (24) rules and regulations on just about every aspect of the conduct that the caddy must observe or avoid,” the promulgation and enforcement of a group rotation system and the club’s suggestion of the fees payable to the caddies.

The High Court, however, disagreed that the facts cited by the IAC “necessarily or logically point to such a relationship, and to the exclusion of any other form of arrangements, other than of employment” that would make the caddy’s service available to the club’s members and guests.

The Court upheld the club’s position that “it has no means of compelling the presence of a caddy, who is not required to render a definite number of hours of work on a single day” and who, after having “rendered services to a player on one day may still find sufficient time to work elsewhere.”

I am not saying that the picketing caddies at the CCC are wrong and the club is right.

I am just presenting a decision of the Supreme Court in a case with strikingly similar factual circumstances. I have to add though that unless the doctrine in MGCC versus IAC and Llamar has been overturned, one of the parties in the CCC conflict may have to restudy its options.

(frank.otherside@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 14, 2014.

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