RESPONDENT Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines Inc. (CCBPI) Sta. Rosa Plant Employees Union is the sole representative of all regular daily paid employees and monthly paid non-commission earning employees within the Sta. Rosa Laguna plant of petitioner CCBPI.
CCBPI implemented a policy which limits the total amount of loan which its employees may obtain from the company and other sources such as the Social Security System (SSS), Pag-Ibig and employees’ cooperative to 50 percent of their respective monthly pay. Respondent Union interpreted such policy as violative of a provision in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), which states that petitioner shall process all SSS loans of its employees, in spite of any outstanding company loan of said employees, subject to SSS rules and regulations.
The Court of Appeals (CA) affirmed the decision of the Voluntary Arbitrator holding that such policy is violative of the CBA in the absence of any SSS regulation supporting the same.
Did the CA err?
A plain reading of the CBA provision provides for the commitment of the petitioner to process SSS salary loans, in particular, of its employees. The only limitation is the application of SSS rules and regulations pertaining to the same. Undoubtedly, the company policy is not an SSS rule or regulation. Hence, it is important to discuss whether said company policy is sanctioned under SSS rules and regulations.
The Terms and Conditions of a Member Loan Application, pursuant to Social Security Commission Regulation 669, is stipulated at the back of every SSS loan application. It specifies for the requirements for eligibility of the member and the responsibilities of an employer relative to loan.
It appears that the qualification of a member-borrower is dependent on the amount of loan to be taken, updated payment of his contributions and other loans, and age, which should be below 65 years. On the other hand, the responsibility of an employer is limited to the collection and remittance of the employee’s amortization: to SSS as it causes the deduction of said amortizations from the employee’s salary.
Based on said terms and conditions, it does not appear that the employer has the prerogative to impose other conditions which do not involve its duty to collect and remit amortizations. The 50 percent net take home pay requirement, in effect, further adds a condition for an employee to obtain an SSS salary loan, on top of the requirements issued by the SSS. Hence, when petitioner requires that the employee should have at least 50 percent net take home pay before it processes a loan application, the same violates the CBA provision when a qualified employee chooses to apply for an SSS loan.
With these, we rule that the company policy violated the provision of the CBA as it imposes a restriction with respect to the right of the employees under the CBA to avail themselves of SSS salary loans.
While petitioner’s cause for putting a limitation on the availment of loans, i.e., to promote the welfare of the employees and their families by securing that the salary of the concerned employee shall be taken home to his family, is sympathetic, we cannot subscribe to the same for being in contravention with the prohibition on interfering with the disposal of wages under Article 112 of the Labor Code. (Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines Inc. vs. CCBPI Sta. Rosa Plant Employees Union, G.R. No. 197484, March 25, 2019).