THE Senate approved on third and final reading Monday a bill amending the Labor Code of the Philippines to strengthen the mandate of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC).

Senate Bill 2837 will amend Article 219 of the Labor Code to increase the number of lawyers assigned to each NLRC commissioner from three to five to assist him in the disposition of cases.

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, acting chairman of Senate committee on labor, employment, and human resources development, said the measure would allow the NLRC to reduce the time of disposition of appealed cases from the present six months to four months.

Records showed that from 2005 to 2014, the NLRC regional arbitration branches handled 434,819 cases while the NLRC main office handled 158,149 appealed cases.

For the first quarter of 2015, the NLRC regional arbitration branches and main office handled a total of 17,264 and 3,741 cases, respectively.

"With the sheer volume of cases being filed at the NLRC, it is constantly faced with the challenge to resolve said cases in the fairest, quickest, least expensive and most effective way possible," Angara said.

"Labor-management relations is never static; it is dynamic. New working arrangements have emerged. The forthcoming Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) integration poses a challenge to traditional employer-employee relationship. With all these changes, the occurrence of labor management disputes is inevitable. We have to keep up with the changes," he added.

The bill will also amend Article 221 of the Labor Code to remove the prohibition on assigning labor arbiters to perform the function of commission lawyers or be detailed to the office of any NLRC commissioners.

With the upsurge of labor cases with "novel and complex" issues, Angara said the NLRC must be strengthened and provided with a great degree of flexibility to respond swiftly and effectively.

Senate President Franklin Drilon said a faster period of handling cases is necessary for the NLRC to effectively perform its mandate of resolving labor and management disputes of both local and overseas workers.

"This bill would not only strengthen the NLRC but would also ensure industrial peace, an imperative of social and economic development," Angara said. (Sunnex)