Employees cry foul over ‘illegal dismissal’

AROUND 160 employees of Heritage Home Group (HHG) Cebu Inc., a furniture firm in Lapu- Lapu City, filed a formal complaint before the Regional Arbitration Branch of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) 7, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019.

“Their issues are constructive dismissal, full-back wages and 13th month pay and moral and exemplary damages. It’s now pending in the sala of Judge Marie Angelika Padrid, the assigned labor arbiter,” said Lyka Arceo, administrative officer of the NLRC.

Constructive dismissal, according to the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole), is when an employee is forced to resign involuntarily because continued employment is deemed impossible, unreasonable or unlikely.

It occurs when there is a “demotion in rank or a diminution in pay; or when a clear discrimination, insensibility or disdain by an employer becomes unbearable to an employee or an unwarranted transfer or demotion of an employee, or other unjustified action prejudicial to the employee.”

Arceo, however, refused to comment further, pending the resolution of the issue.

One of the complainants who requested anonymity said their forced five-month layoff without any benefits was unjust.

“I have worked for the company for 14 years. Then around the first week of August this year, we were told that we are among those slated to be laid off, effective Aug. 1. Now, it was just okay for us as long as we were given separation benefits. But we were not given a single centavo. Not even our request of at least 10 kilos of rice. This is very hard for us since we have a family who also depends on us,” he said in Cebuano.

He said most of those who were laid off were regular employees composed of production staff, machine operators and quality control staff.

SunStar Cebu tried to get the side of HHG, but it refused to comment on the matter.

However, based on the notice of layoff (dated July 31, 2019) HHG gave to the affected employees, the company is experiencing financial losses. That is why it needs to “restructure its manpower requirement to make it suitable and fit to the current business realities and the present volume of load in production.”

The company, however, assured “it shall reinstate their employment without loss of seniority rights if they would report for work upon resumption of their operations.”

According to the Labor Code, an employer needs to show proof of imminent financial loss to justify retrenchment.

“If the reason for the retrenchment is financial losses, how can the employer provide separation pay? If they have no raw materials anymore, or no market. Maybe it’s just temporary. The affected workers will be rehired once business picks up,” said Siaton Salome, Dole 7 director, in Tagalog. (WBS)


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