Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go filed a bill that seeks to create an additional division of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) to be established in Davao City.

Senate Bill (SB) No. 1254, which intends to amend the relevant provisions of the Labor Code of the Philippines, also requires the addition of three more commissioners since each division of the NLRC is composed of three members.

“The creation of an additional division of the NLRC will be beneficial for the proper administration and implementation of the labor laws and rules,” Go stated in the explanatory note of the bill.

The NLRC is mandated to resolve disputes “involving both local and overseas workers,” and Go cited the growing number of these workers as another reason for the creation of the sixth division.

“The NLRC is now tasked with a bigger responsibility,” Go said adding that this proposal will make its services more accessible to Filipinos.

Recently, the Philippine Statistics Authority released its Latest Labor Force Survey, indicating that the country’s employment rate is now at 95.5%, as of October 2019. Unemployment rate has gone down to only 4.5%—the lowest in the last fourteen years. Because of the robust economic growth, with more businesses and trades being opened and expanded, more Filipinos are now gainfully employed.

The NLRC was founded in the 1970s when the country’s labor force was still comparably smaller than what it is now. With the growing number of workers under its jurisdiction, NLRC has to expand in order to minimize case backlogs and address labor disputes in more timely manner. Senator Go believes that the three-decade-old Labor Code has to keep abreast with the changing conditions of the present time.

The NLRC currently has five divisions, with the NLRC Chair acting as Presiding Commissioner of the first division. The other members of the first division are a commissioner from the workers sector and another commissioner from the employers sector. The other divisions have similar compositions, but instead of the NLRC Chair, a commissioner from the public sector acts as the presiding commissioner for each of them.

The first, second, and third divisions of NLRC have main offices in Metro Manila and handle cases coming from the National Capital Region and parts of Luzon. The fourth division, with main office in Cebu City, handles cases from the Visayas, while the fifth division, with main office in Cagayan de Oro City, handles cases from Mindanao.

He cited the number of cases that the NLRC, an agency attached to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and mandated to adjudicate labor and management disputes, handled in the past two years.

“In 2018, the Commission posted an overall disposition output of 48,770 cases through compulsory arbitration, which consist of 37,073 (76%) original cases from the Regional Arbitration Branches and 11,733 (24%) appealed cases from the Commission Proper,” the Senator explained.

“Out of 39,160 original cases received for the current year, 37,037 (95%) are disposed by the Regional Arbitration Branches while 11,733 (105%) are disposed by the Commission Proper from the 11,193 appealed cases received for the current year,” he added.

SB 1254 requires the number of commissioners to be increased from fourteen to seventeen and, in accordance with the existing practice, the three additional commissioners shall come each from the public, workers and employers sectors. The powers, functions and duties of the NLRC, however, remain the same.

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