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Sometime in March 1977, the Philippine National Construction Corporation (PNCC) was awarded by the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) with the franchise of constructing, operating and maintaining the north and south expressways, including the South Metro Manila Skyway (Skyway).
On December 15, 1998, it created petitioner PNCC Skyway Corporation (PSC) for the purpose of taking charge of its traffic safety, maintaining its facilities and collecting toll.Eight years later, or on July 18, 2007, the Citra Metro Manila Tollway Corporation (Citra), a private investor under a build-and-transfer scheme, entered into an agreement with the TRB and the PNCC to transfer the operation of the Skyway from petitioner PSC to the Skyway O & M Corporation (SOMCO). The said transfer provided for a five-month transition period from July 2007 until the full torn-over of the Skyway at 10:00 p.m. of December 31, 2007 upon which petitioner PSC will close its operation.On December 28, 2007, or three (3) days before the flail transfer of the operation of the Skyway to SOMCO, petitioner PSC served termination letters to its employees, many of whom were members of private respondent PNCC Skyway Traffic Management and Security Division Worker's Organization (Union). According to the letter, PSC has no choice but to close its operations resulting in the termination of its employees effective January 31, 2008.
However, the employees are entitled to receive separation pay amounting to 250% of the basic monthly pay for every year of service, among others things. Petitioner PSC, likewise, served a notice of termination to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).On that same day of December 28, 2007, private respondent Union, immediately upon receipt of the termination letters, filed a Notice of Strike before the DOLE alleging that the closure of the operation of PSC is tantamount to union-busting because it is a means of terminating employees who are members thereof. Furthermore, the notices of termination were served on its employees three (3) days before petitioner PSC ceases its operations, thereby violating the employees' right to due process. As a matter of fact, the employees were no longer allowed to work as of January 1, 2008. Private respondent Union, thus, prayed that petitioner PSC be held guilty of unfair labor practice and illegal dismissal. It, likewise, prayed for the reinstatement of all dismissed employees, along with the award of backwages, moral and exemplary damages, and attorney's fees.
Is PSC failed to comply with the procedural requirements of article 283 of the labor code on notice.
Art. 283. Closure of establishment and reduction of personnel. The employer may also terminate the employment of any employee due to the installation of labor saving devices, redundancy, retrenchment to prevent losses or the closing or cessation of operation of the establishment or undertaking unless the closing is for the purpose of circumventing the provisions of this Title, by serving a written notice on the workers and the Ministry of Labor and Employment at least one (1) month before the intended date thereof. In case of termination due to the installation of labor saving devices or redundancy, the worker affected thereby shall be entitled to a separation pay equivalent to at least his one (1) month pay or to at least one (1) month pay for every year of service, whichever is higher. In case of retrenchment to prevent losses and in cases of closures or cessation of operations of establishment or under taking not due to serious business losses or financial reverses, the separation pay shall be equivalent to one (1) month pay or at least one-half (1/2) month pay for every year of service, whichever is higher. A fraction of at least six (6) months shall be considered one (1) whole year.
In sum, under Article 283 of the Labor Code, three requirements are necessary for a valid cessation of business operations: (a) service of a written notice to the employees and to the DOLE at least one month before the intended date thereof; (b) the cessation of business must be bona fide in character; and (c) payment to the employees of termination pay amounting to one month pay or at least one-half month pay for every year of service, whichever is higher.
The required written notice under Article 283 of the Labor Code is to inform the employees of the specific date of termination or closure of business operations, and must be served upon them at least one (1) month before the date of effectivity to give them sufficient time to make the necessary arrangements. The purpose of this requirement is to give employees time to prepare for the eventual loss of their jobs, as well as to give DOLE the opportunity to ascertain the veracity of the alleged cause of termination. Thus, considering that the notices of termination were given merely three (3) days before the cessation of the PSC's operation, it defeats the very purpose of the required notice and the mandate of Article 283 of the Labor Code. Neither the payment of employees' salaries for the said one-month period nor the employees' alleged actual knowledge of the ASTOA is sufficient to replace the formal and written notice required by the law.