Supreme Court asked to reopen Philippines’ biggest labor case

Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - April 10, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court (SC) has been asked to reopen the $609-million labor case between 2,300 former overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Middle East and American military contractor Kellog-Brown & Root.

Through lawyer Gerardo del Mundo, petitioners belonging to the Bagong Bayani Organization led by Ricardo Bautista asked the SC to reverse its May 2011 ruling that junked their claims.

They asked the SC to instead affirm the December 2002 decision of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), which ordered Kellog-Brown & Root to pay them their back wages, discrimination pay, hazard and retirement pay amounting to $609 million plus 12 percent interest – a historic decision considered as the country’s biggest award in labor adjudication.

The NLRC ruled that Kellog-Brown and Root and its local affiliate, Asia International Builder Corp., must pay the claims for overtime pay, annual leave differential pay, vacation leave compensation and other claims of petitioners.

The petitioners made the appeal last week through a three-page letter to Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin obtained by The STAR wherein they invoked “judicial and humanitarian considerations” of the Court.

They asked Bersamin and other magistrates of the High Tribunal to consider the welfare of “OFWs who have been maltreated, abused... and illegally terminated by their foreign employers.”

They lamented that the SC rejected their claims when the American firm already agreed to a settlement and abide by the NLRC order.

Petitioners insisted that the NLRC was correct in granting their claims against the Texas-based company and that the Court of Appeals erred in reversing the decision on the 35-year-old case.

“Total awards are now $5.7 billion due to accumulated and compounded annual interest earnings since June 6, 1984,” they told the Court.

The group stressed that while the SC ruling was final and already had entry of judgment, it could still be reopened and reconsidered for the interest of justice, which the SC did in several cases.

The petitioners in this case were OFWs from Batangas, Laguna and Cavite who were employed with Brown & Root International Inc. (now Kellog-Brown & Root) in overseas projects in the Middle East, particularly in Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, from 1976 until the 1990s.

Most of these OFWs worked in Vietnam during the war between North Vietnam and South Vietnam in 1960s before they transferred to Bahrain and the UAE.

Kellog-Brown & Root is associated with the Halliburn Group of Companies where former US vice president Richard Cheney served as chief executive officer for five years.

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