Article 243 of the Labor Code 12 enumerates who are eligible to form, join, or assist labor organizations for purposes of collective bargaining, to wit—
ART. 243. Coverage and employees’ right to self-organization. — All persons employed in commercial, industrial and agricultural enterprises and in religious, charitable, medical or educational institutions whether operating for profit or not, shall have the right to self-organization and to form, join, or assist labor organizations of their own choosing for purposes of collective bargaining. x x x
The recognized exception to this enumeration is found in Article 245 of the same code, which provides for the ineligibility of managerial employees to join any labor reorganization, viz—
ART. 245. Ineligibility of managerial employees to join any labor organization. Managerial employees are not eligible to join, assist or form any labor organization.
From the foregoing provisions of law it would appear at first blush that all the rank and file employees of a cooperative who are not managerial employees are eligible to form, join or assist any labor organization of their own choosing for the purpose of collective bargaining.
However, under Section 2 of P.D. No. 175, a cooperative is defined to mean “organizations composed primarily of small producers and of consumers who voluntarily join together to form business enterprises which they themselves own, control, and patronize.” Its creation and growth were declared as a policy of the State as a means of increasing the income and purchasing power of the low-income sector of the population in order to attain a more equitable distribution of income and wealth. The principles governing it are:
a) Open membership. — “Should be voluntary and available without artificial restriction, or any social, political, racial or religious discrimination, to all persons who can make use of its services and are willing to accept responsibilities of membership;”
b) Democratic control. — “Irrespective of the number of shares owned, each member can only cast one vote in deciding upon the affairs of the cooperative;”
c) Limited interests to capital. — “Share capital shall earn only limited interest, the maximum rate of interest to be established by the Department of Local Government and Community Development from time to time;” and
d) Patronage refund. — “Net income after the interest on capital has been paid shall be redistributed among the members in proposition to their patronage.”
While cooperatives may exercise the same rights and privileges given to persons, partnership and corporations provided under existing laws, operate business enterprises of all kinds, establish rural banks, enjoy all the privileges and incentives granted by the NACIDA Act and other government agencies to business organizations under existing laws, to expropriate idle urban or rural lands for its purposes, to own and dispose of properties, enter into contracts, to sue and be sued and perform other acts necessary to pursue its objectives, such cooperatives enjoy such privileges as:
a) Exemption from income tax and sales taxes;
b) Preferential right to supply rice, corn and other grains, and other commodities produced by them to State agencies administering price stabilization program; and
c) In appropriate cases, exemption from application of minimum wage law upon recommendation of the Bureau of Cooperative Development subject to the approval of the Secretary of Labor.
x x x x
A cooperative, therefore, is by its nature different from an ordinary business concern, being run either by persons, partnerships, or corporations. Its owners and/or members are the ones who run and operate the business while the others are its employees. As above stated, irrespective of the number of shares owned by each member they are entitled to cast one vote each in deciding upon the affairs of the cooperative. Their share capital earn limited interests. They enjoy special privileges as — exemption from income tax and sales taxes, preferential right to supply their products to State agencies and even exemption from the minimum wages laws.
An employee therefore of such a cooperative who is a member and co-owner thereof cannot invoke the right to collective bargaining for certainly an owner cannot bargain with himself or his co-owners. In the opinion of August 14, 1981 of the Solicitor General he correctly opined that employees of cooperatives who are themselves members of the cooperative have no right to form or join labor organizations for purposes of collective bargaining for being themselves co-owners of the cooperative.
However, in so far as it involves cooperatives with employees who are not members or co-owners thereof, certainly such employees are entitled to exercise the rights of all workers to organization, collective bargaining, negotiations and others as are enshrined in the Constitution and existing laws of the country.
The questioned ruling therefore of public respondent Pura Ferrer-Calleja must be upheld insofar as it refers to the employees of petitioner who are not members or co-owners of petitioner. It cannot extend to the other employees who are at the same time its members or co-owners. (Image: Freddie Collins)