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When politics comes in conflict with one’s work – Atty JBJ

Source: DIRECT FROM THE LABOR FRONT By Atty Josephus Jimenez
As the political tempest is currently heating up, the work environment should brace up for possible problems that may arise from some employees’ exercise of their political rights to vote and to be voted upon, while at the same time continuing to work as personnel of their respective employers. For instance, if a company manager, supervisor or rank-and-file employee decides to run for public office, can he be compelled to resign by his employer? Can he insist to continue working with his employer while also serving as a public official? These and many related issues must now be addressed proactively by both labor and management. And if they cannot agree, a policy guideline from the DOLE may be very useful, to avoid unnecessary suits and labor disputes.

First and foremost, we need to tackle some fundamental principles in both political law and labor law. Is it legally correct for employers to prohibit their employees from exercising their constitutional and political freedom to participate freely in the incoming political exercise, and in any political activity for that matter? In the exercise of management’s prerogative to lay down and execute management policies, may the employer promulgate a policy disallowing its employees from running for public office or risk the possibility of dismissal? And if any of its employees should violate the said policy, may the employer legally terminate his employment? Is this allowed by labor law?

On the other hand, is it a valid argument on the part of the employees and their unions to aver that their employers have neither the right nor the prerogative to deprive their personnel of their constitutional and political rights? Is it a valid proposition to resolve that the Constitution being superior to the Labor Code and Civil Code, then the right to vote and be voted upon are inalienable and cannot be subject to any restraint? Can the workers correctly argue that one’s democratic rights to vote and run for elective posts take precedence over the prerogatives of employers to manage their business and control the actuations of their workers?

Is there a middle ground with which to resolve this collision of workers’ rights and management prerogatives? To our mind, there are three ways to possibly resolve these issues. First is the extremist approach of the dyed-in-the-wool capitalists. This school of thought strongly submits that employees have the absolute duty to obey all policies promulgated by management, under pain of termination of employment for insubordination. If they don’t have jobs they have the complete and untrammeled freedom to engage themselves in politics. But the moment they have themselves bound by an employment contract, they subordinate their will to the will of their employers. Otherwise, there shall be conflict of interests between their job and their public duty.

The opposite school of thought is that of the libertarians that uphold at all costs the democratic principles of freedom in their unrestrained and unconditional forms. This school firmly holds that employers cannot legally impair nor restrain the workers’ free exercise of their inalienable political rights that are sacredly enshrined in the fundamental law of the land. They aver that the workers are Filipino citizens, first and foremost, and only employees secondarily. Their first duty, next to their God and to their family, is to their country. And no employer can validly put an obstacle to the exercise of such rights. Well, we cannot resolve this problem by going to either of the two extremes.

There is a third option, which is a win-win formula. Each side must take a little, give a little. There must be policy which the management shall promulgate and the workers must comply with, that shall accommodate the respective jugular interests of both sides. On the right to vote, there shall be no compromise. Workers should be allowed the absolute freedom to choose whom they want. Management cannot dictate any worker whom to vote for. On the right to be voted upon, however, there should be a compromise. Since being a councilor or a kagawad and a Provincial Board member do not entail full time work, management should allow their workers to run for these posts. Whenever they attend sessions or committee hearings, they should take a leave of absence.

If the company personnel opts to run for barangay chairman, mayor or governor, then he should be considered resigned upon his taking office, not upon filing of his certificate of candidacy. When he files his candidacy papers, he should take a leave of absence. If he loses, he should be allowed to resume working in the Company. If he wins, he should tender his resignation from the Company before he takes his oath of office in the elective post. These are the well-considered positions of many HR ‘’gurus’’ and the wise men in the practice of leading and managing people. These are the policies of many prestigious corporations. And this is the most just and fair way to resolve this matter to the mutual satisfaction of all concerned. If there is any objector, let him come forward now or forever keep his peace.