INTERNATIONAL School, Inc., is a domestic educational institution established primarily for dependents of foreign diplomatic personnel and other temporary residents.
To enable the school to continue carrying out its educational program and improve its standard of instruction, the school hires both foreign and local teacher as members of its faculty, classifying them into two, namely: (1) foreign hires, and (2) local hires.
The School grants foreign-hires certain benefits not accorded local-hires. These include housing, transportation, shipping costs, taxes, and home leave travel allowance.
Foreign-hires are also paid a salary rate twenty-five percent (25%) more than local-hires.
The School justifies the difference on two "significant economic disadvantages" foreign-hires have to endure, namely: (a) the "dislocation factor" and (b) limited tenure.
When negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement were held, the International School Alliance of Educators, "a legitimate labor union and the collective bargaining representative of all faculty members" of the School, contested the difference in salary rates between foreign and local-hires. This issue eventually caused a deadlock between the parties.
The union claims that the point-of-hire classification employed by the School is discriminatory to Filipinos and that the grant of higher salaries to foreign-hires constitutes racial discrimination.
Is there discrimination if the local hire receives salaries less than their counterparts hired abroad?
The Supreme Court resolved this issue in the affirmative. Discrimination, particularly in terms of wages, is frowned upon by the Labor Code. Article 135, for example, prohibits and penalizes the payment of lesser compensation to a female employee as against a male employee for work of equal value. Article 248 declares it an unfair labor practice for an employer to discriminate in regard to wages in order to encourage or discourage membership in any labor organization.
The foregoing provisions impregnably institutionalize in this jurisdiction the long honored legal truism of "equal pay for equal work." Persons who work with substantially equal qualifications, skill, effort and responsibility, under similar conditions, should be paid similar salaries. This rule applies to the School, its "international character" notwithstanding.
The School contends that the Union has not adduced evidence that local-hires perform work equal to that of foreign-hires. The Court found this argument a little cavalier. If an employer accords employees the same position and rank, the presumption is that these employees perform equal work. This presumption is borne by logic and human experience. If the employer pays one employee less than the rest, it is not for that employee to explain why he receives less or why the others receive more. That would be adding insult to injury. The employer has discriminated against that employee; it is for the employer to explain why the employee is treated unfairly.
The employer in this case has failed to discharge this burden. There is no evidence here that foreign-hires perform 25 percent more efficiently or effectively than the local-hires. Both groups have similar functions and responsibilities, which they perform under similar working conditions.
While we recognize the need of the School to attract foreign-hires, salaries should not be used as an enticement to the prejudice of local-hires. The local-hires perform the same services as foreign-hires and they ought to be paid the same salaries as the latter. For the same reason, the "dislocation factor" and the foreign-hires' limited tenure also cannot serve as valid bases for the distinction in salary rates. The dislocation factor and limited tenure affecting foreign-hires are adequately compensated by certain benefits accorded them which are not enjoyed by local-hires, such as housing, transportation, shipping costs, taxes and home leave travel allowances.
The Constitution enjoins the State to "protect the rights of workers and promote their welfare," "to afford labor full protection." The State, therefore, has the right and duty to regulate the relations between labor and capital. These relations are not merely contractual but are so impressed with public interest that labor contracts, collective bargaining agreements included, must yield to the common good. Should such contracts contain stipulations that are contrary to public policy, courts will not hesitate to strike down these stipulations.
In this case, the Supreme Court found the point-of-hire classification employed by the School to justify the distinction in the salary rates of foreign-hires and local hires to be an invalid classification. There is no reasonable distinction between the services rendered by foreign-hires and local-hires. The practice of the School of according higher salaries to foreign-hires contravenes public policy and, certainly, does not deserve the sympathy of this Court.
(International School of Alliance of Educators vs. Quisumbing, 333 SCRA 13 .)