Baguio City – The Philippine Constitution and the Labor Code of the Philippines specify the use of voluntary modes of dispute settlement. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) issued Department Order No. 107-10 (DO 107-10) providing the guidelines on the “Single Entry Approach” or “SEnA”, an administrative approach for a speedy, impartial, inexpensive and accessible settlement procedure of all labor and employment issues through a 30-day mandatory conciliation-mediation. The SEnA was established to complement the existing labor dispute settlement mechanism and processes in the DOLE and its attached agencies.
In March 2013, the SEnA was institutionalized with the passage of Republic Act No. 10396 amending the Labor Code and requiring all labor and employment issues, except as provided in Title VII-A, Book V of the Labor Code, or as may be excepted by the Secretary of Labor and Employment, be subject to mandatory conciliation-mediation.
In February 2016, the DOLE issued Department Order No. 151-16 (DO 151-16) setting forth the “Single Entry Approach Implementing Rules and Regulations”. DO 151-16 reiterated the requirement for the 30-day mandatory conciliation-mediation for all issues arising from labor and employment.
The SEnA is initiated by filing a Request for Assistance (RFA). The RFA is assigned to a Single Entry Approach Desk Officer (SEADO) who is tasked to provide advice and conduct conciliation-mediation. The 30- day conciliation-mediation period may be pre-terminated by request of the complainant (requesting party) or both parties. If the dispute is settled, the RFA is considered closed. If the dispute is not settled and the RFA is not withdrawn, the SEADO will issue a “Referral”, an endorsement of the unsettled issue to the appropriate DOLE office or attached agency.
To further explain the procedure, a dismissed employee who seeks to charge his employer with unlawful dismissal must first go through the SEnA. He cannot directly file the case with the Labor Arbiter, who has jurisdiction over illegal dismissal cases, without undergoing the mandatory conciliation- mediation.
The SEnA rules of procedure is applicable to such cases as termination or suspension of employment issues; claims for any sum of money, regardless of amount; intra-union and inter-union issues, except petition for certification election, after exhaustion of administrative remedies; unfair labor practice; closures, retrenchments, redundancies, temporary lay-offs; OFW cases; occupational safety and health standards issues, except those involving imminent danger situations; issues arising from other labor and related issuances; any other claims arising from employer-employee relationship; and cases falling under the administrative and quasi-judicial jurisdiction of all DOLE offices and attached agencies such as the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC)
However, notices of strikes or lockouts, or preventive mediation cases will not be covered by the rules and will remain within the jurisdiction of the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB).
Likewise, the rules do not cover issues arising from the interpretation or implementation of the collective bargaining agreement and those arising from interpretation or enforcement of company personnel policies which should be processed through the grievance machinery and voluntary arbitration.
Issues involving violations of specific permits, licenses, or registrations are not covered by the rules. These include alien employment permit; Private Recruitment and Placement Agency authority or license; working child permit and violations of Republic Act 9231 or the Anti-Child Labor Law; registration under Department Order 18-02; licenses issued by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration under the Migrant Workers’ Act, as amended; professional license issued by the Professional Regulation Commission; accreditation of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority; and other similar permits, licenses, or registrations issued by the DOLE or its attached agencies.
Under the rules, requests for assistance shall be filed at any Single Entry Assistance Desk (SEAD) in the region, provincial or field offices of the DOLE where the employer principally operates. In case of a union or federation that is representing a local chapter, the request shall be filed at the regional, provincial, district, or field office where the union or local chapter is registered.
If the request is filed with the SEAD most convenient to the requesting party outside the region where the employer principally operates, the single entry assistance desk officer (SEADO) may entertain the same and proceed with the conciliation-mediation, provided, however, that the employer does not object to it otherwise, the SEADO shall immediately refer the request to the appropriate agency.
Clients who would come to the SEAD for assistance shall be interviewed for evaluation and will be advised of the objectives and procedures of the SEnA program. The client would then be allowed to accomplish the request for assistance form. On the other hand, complaints or requests for assistance through a letter, e-mail, or referral shall be allowed but complainants will be likewise required to personally appear pursuant to the rules. In cases where there are anonymous complaints or requests for assistance, the SEADO shall initiate a verification by requesting an interview with the respondent to facilitate compliance or correction, if there are violations.
The SEnA desk officers exercise the right to validate the arguments of both parties. In the conciliation-mediation process there is no hard and fast rule. The bottom line should be that both parties agree as to how and why and DOLE’s role is to attest what they have agreed upon.
For more information visit the Bureau of Working Relations website at www.blr.dole.gov.ph
END/Patrick T. Rillorta