RESPONDENTS Armando Guilaran and 30 others filed complaints for illegal dismissal, underpayment of wages and non-payment of allowance, separation pay, service incentive leave pay and 13th month pay, and for moral and exemplary damages against petitioners Ramiro Lim & Sons Agricultural Co. Inc., Sima Real Estate Development Inc. and Ramiro Lim.
They alleged that they were agricultural workers of the petitioners, employed to work in all the agricultural stages of work on the 84-hectare hacienda owned by petitioners. They were paid on a mixed pakyaw and daily basis. They were allegedly illegally dismissed on July 22, 2000 when they asked to be paid based on the prevailing minimum wage then.
Petitioners, on the other hand, argued that respondents were employed as laborers on a pakyaw basis. When their attention was called to the plan to conduct stricter measures to prevent wastage and production losses due to their half-hearted performance, respondents refused to return to work, paralyzing operations for about three weeks.
The Court of Appeals (CA) found that since the respondents have been performing services necessary and desirable to the business of petitioners which are badges of regular employment, even though they did not work throughout the year and the employment depended on a specific season, it granted their reinstatement and payment of full backwages and attorney’s fees.
Did the CA err?
It has already been settled by this Court that respondents were regular seasonal workers. The CA decision, which was affirmed with finality by this Court, held:
Third. Anent their complaint for illegal dismissal. Although petitioners do not work throughout the year and their employment depends upon a specific season, like for instance, milling seasons; and for only a specific task like, weeding, plowing, fertilizing, to name a few, inasmuch as they have been performing services necessary and desirable to private respondents’ business, serve as badges of regular employment.
The fact that petitioners “do not work continuously for one whole year but only for the duration of a season does not detract from considering them regular employees. It is well-entrenched in our jurisprudence that seasonal workers who are called from time to time and are temporarily laid off during off-season are not separated from service in said period, but are merely considered on leave until re-employed.
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A distinguishing characteristic of a task basis engagement or pakyaw, as opposed to straight-hour wage payment, is the non-consideration of the time spent in working. In a payment by pakyaw basis, the emphasis is on the task itself, in the sense that payment is reckoned in terms of completion of the work, not in terms of the number of hours spent in the completion of the work. (Ramiro Lim & Sons Agricultural Co., et.al. vs. Armando Guilaran, et.al., G.R. No. 221967, February 6, 2019).