Case citation ALU-TUCP vs.

National Labor Relations Commission and National Steel Corporation, 234 SCRA 678

Legal Issue Whether or not the petitioners were properly characterized as “project employees” rather than “regular employees” of National Steel Corporation.

Legal Facts This case is a Petition for Certiorari, which assailed the Resolution of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) declaring the petitioners as project employees of private respondent National Steel Corporation (NSC). Petitioners were employed by NSC in connection with its Five Year Expansion Program (FAYEP I & II) for varying lengths of time when they were separated from NSC's service thus they filed complaints for unfair labor practice, regularization and monetary benefits with the NLRC. After the hearing, the Labor Arbiter declared the petitioners as “regular project employees” who shall continue their employment as such for as long as the project exists and who shall be entitled to the salary of a regular employee. Both parties appealed the decision, which was later affirmed with modifications by the NLRC declaring that the petitioners were “project employees” and set aside the award to the petitioners of the same benefits enjoyed by regular employees for lack of legal and factual basis. The petitioners then invoke Article 280 of the Labor Code arguing that they are “regular” employees because their jobs are necessary, desirable and work-related to NSC's main business and also because they have rendered service for six years or more to NSC.

Ruling of the Court Yes, the petitioners were properly characterized as “project employees”. A project employee is assigned to carry out a specific project or undertaking wherein the duration and scope of such is determined at the time the employee was engaged for that project. The project or undertaking referred to above may or may not be within the regular business of the corporation but it must be identifiably separate and distinct from the ordinary or regular business operations of the employer. The particular component projects embraced in the FAYEP I and II, wherein the petitioners were assigned, were distinguishable from the regular or ordinary business of NSC, there work was limited to one or another of the specific component projects which made up the FAYEP I and II. There was nothing in the record to show that the petitioners were hired for, or in fact assigned to, other purposes such as for operating or maintaining the old, or previously installed and commissioned, steel-making machinery and equipment, or for selling the finished steel products. Moreover, the petitioners' claim that should be qualified as regular employees because they have rendered more that six years of service to NSC lacks legal basis. The proviso in the second paragraph of Article 280 of the Labor Code which states that an employee who has served for at least one year shall be considered a regular employee relates to casual employees and not to project employees.

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