DOLE-NCR settles cases giving P1.6 million to workers under SENA

Ortigas CenterImage via WikipediaA March 14, 2011 press release by the Department of Labor and Employment

In February, the Department of Labor and EmploymentNational Capital Region had disposed of 269 labor cases under the Single Entry Approach (SENA), in effect awarding P1,602,228.73 in total benefits to affected workers, Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz reported yesterday.

“Our DOLE-NCR has assisted 136 workers who filed complaints at its field offices in CAMANAVA, Makati-Pasay,Manila, MUNTAPARLAS, PAPAMAMARISAN, and Quezon City in February and these cases were all settled under the SENA approach,” said Baldoz, citing a report of DOLE-NCR director Raymundo G. Agravante.

“These cases involved illegal dismissal, underpayment of wages, non-payment of over-time pay, holiday pay and thirteenth month pay, non-coverage of social protection benefits under SSS, Philhealth, and Pag-ibig, and illegal dismissal cases,” she added.

The SENA, a DOLE flagship reform program on labor adjudication, prescribes 30-day mandatory conciliation–mediation services to effect fair and speedy settlement of all DOLE cases.

This program, Baldoz explained, provides workers speedy, impartial, inexpensive, and accessible settlement procedure of all labor issues or conflicts to prevent these issues or conflicts from ripening into full-blown disputes.

Baldoz said the SENA approach, as an alternative dispute settlement mechanism, has benefited many workers over the last eight months, citing the case of Leoncio Romero, one of the 136 workers assisted by the DOLE in February.

Romero, who worked as messenger for 22 years in a dry goods and leather store in Manila, was dismissed from work allegedly due to theft. He suspected that his employer accused him of stealing money as ground for his dismissal.

He visited the DOLE Manila Field Office, where SEA Desk Officer Mary Ann V. Teneza attended to his complaint. He simply wanted to clear his name from the accusations.

“Gusto ko lang pong malinis yung pangalan ko doon sa binibintang nila na hindi ko naman ginawa dahil apektado po ang aking dalawang anak sa nangyari,” said Romero.

During the conciliation-mediation meeting called by Teneza, it turned out that Leoncio was underpaid and not receiving overtime pay due him. He also was not paid for the last 15 days.

“Ang sa akin lamang po ay maibigay yung tamang halaga ng separation pay ayon sa taon na aking pinaglingkuran at base sa kung ano ang nakasaad sa batas,” Romero narrated.

Through the SENA, it only took the DOLE-NCR Manila Field Office 10 days to settle his complaint. Romero received P100,000.00 in separation and other benefits. He felt vindicated and profusely thanked the DOLE for the speedy settlement of his case.

“Mr. Romero is just one of the hundreds of workers who visit our field offices for assistance,” Director Agravante explained, saying that the SENA complements the existing labor dispute settlement mechanisms and processes in the DOLE offices to settle unresolved issues or complaints arising from employer-employee relations. The SENA, he added, encourages the use conciliation-mediation to avoid costly litigation process.

To make the SENA more accessible, the DOLE has set up hundreds of SEA desks in all its offices in Manila and in the regions. One who has a complaint can simply approach a SEA desk where a trained desk officer will attend to his complaint.