J O I N T A F F I D A V I T
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5. That aside from our basic monthly salary we are entitled to two (2) months vacation leave, daily subsistence allowance of US$8.14 each, daily food allowance of US$2.50. as well as overtime pay which we failed to receive because our Shipboard Employment Contract was illegally terminated;
6. That while we were in Rotterdam, on or about July 9, 1975, representative of the ITF boarded our vessel and talked with the Ship's Captain;
7. That the following day, the representatives of the ITF returned and was followed by Mr. M.S.K. Ogle who is the Company's Administrative Manager, again went to see the Captain;
8. That at around 7:00 in the evening all the crew members were called in the Mess Hall where the ITF representatives informed us that they have just entered into a "Special Agreement" with the Wallem Shipping Management, Ltd., represented by Mr. M.S.K. Ogle, Administrative Manager, wherein new salary rates was agreed upon and that we were going to be paid our salary differentials in view of the new rates;
9. That in the same meeting, Mr. M.S.K. Ogle also spoke where he told that a Special Agreement has been signed and that we will be receiving new pay rate and enjoined us to work hard and be good boys;
10. That the same evening we received our salary differentials based on the new rates negotiated for us by the ITF.
11. That while we were in the Port Dubai, Saudi Arabia, we were not receiving our pay, since the Ship's Captain refused to implement the world-wide rates and insisted on paying us the Far East Rate;
12. That the Port Dubai is one that is within the Worldwide rates sphere.
13. That on October 22, 1975, Mr. Greg Nacional Operation Manager of respondent corporation, arrived in Dubai Saudi Arabia and boarded our ship;
14. That on October 23, 1975, Mr. Nacional called all the crew members, including us to a meeting at the Mess Hall and there he explained that the Company cannot accept the worldwide rate. The Special Agreement signed by Mr. Ogle in behalf of the Company is nothing but a scrap of paper. Mr. Jaime Caunca then asked Mr. Nacional, in view of what he was saying, whether the Company will honor the Special Agreement and Mr. Nacional answered "Yes". That we must accept the Far East Rates which was put to a vote. Only two voted for accepting the Far East Rates;
15. That immediately thereafter Mr. Nacional left us;
16. That same evening, Mr. Nacional returned and threatened that he has received a cable from the Home Office that if we do not accept the Far East Rate, our services will be terminated and there will be a change in crew;
17. That when Mr. Nacional left, we talked amongst ourselves and decided to accept the Far East Rates;
18. That in the meeting that evening because of the threat we informed Mr. Nacional we were accepting the Far East Rate and he made us sign a document to that effect;
19. That we the complainants with the exception of Leopoldo Mamaril and Efren Garcia, were not able to sign as we were at the time on work schedules, and Mr. Nacional did not bother anymore if we signed or not;
20. That after the meeting Mr. Nacional cabled the Home Office, informing them that we the complainants with the exception of Messrs. Mamaril and Garcia were not accepting the Far East Rates;
21. That in the meeting of October 25, 1975, Mr. Nacional signed a document whereby he promised to give no priority of first preference in "boarding a vessel and that we are not blacklisted";
22. That in spite of our having accepted the Far East Rate, our services were terminated and advised us that there was a change in crew;
23. That on October 27, 1975, which was our scheduled flight home, nobody attended us, not even our clearance for our group travel and consequently we were not able to board the plane, forcing us to sleep on the floor at the airport in the evening of October 27, 1975;
24. That the following day we went back to the hotel in Dubai which was a two hours ride from the airport, where we were to await another flight for home via Air France;
25. That we were finally able to leave for home on November 2, 1975 arriving here on the 3rd of November;
26. That we paid for all excess baggages;
27. That Mr. Nacional left us stranded, since he went ahead on October 27, 1975;
28. That immediately upon arriving in Manila, we went to respondent Company and saw Mr. Nacional, who informed us that we were not blacklisted, however, Mr. Mckenzie, Administrative Manager did inform us that we were all blacklisted;
29. That we were asking from the respondent Company our leave pay, which they refused to give, if we did not agree to a US$100.00 deduction;
30. That with the exception of Messrs. Jaime Caunca Amado Manansala and Antonio Cabrera, we received our leave pay with the US$100.00 deduction;
31. That in view of the written promise of Mr. Nacional in Dubai last October 23, 1975 to give us priority and preference in boarding a vessel and that we were not blacklisted we have on several occasions approached him regarding his promise, which up to the present he has refused to honor.
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The findings and conclusion of the Board should be sustained. As already intimated above, there is no logic in the statement made by the Secretariat's Hearing Officer that the private respondents are liable for breach of their employment contracts for accepting salaries higher than their contracted rates. Said respondents are not signatories to the Special Agreement, nor was there any showing that they instigated the execution thereof. Respondents should not be blamed for accepting higher salaries since it is but human for them to grab every opportunity which would improve their working conditions and earning capacity. It is a basic right of all workingmen to seek greater benefits not only for themselves but for their families as well, and this can be achieved through collective bargaining or with the assistance of trade unions. The Constitution itself guarantees the promotion of social welfare and protection to labor. It is therefore the Hearing Officer that gravely erred in disallowing the payment of the unexpired portion of the seamen's respective contracts of employment.
Petitioner claims that the dismissal of private respondents was justified because the latter threatened the ship authorities in acceeding to their demands, and this constitutes serious misconduct as contemplated by the Labor Code. This contention is not well-taken. The records fail to establish clearly the commission of any threat. But even if there had been such a threat, respondents' behavior should not be censured because it is but natural for them to employ some means of pressing their demands for petitioner, who refused to abide with the terms of the Special Agreement, to honor and respect the same. They were only acting in the exercise of their rights, and to deprive them of their freedom of expression is contrary to law and public policy. There is no serious misconduct to speak of in the case at bar which would justify respondents' dismissal just because of their firmness in their demand for the fulfillment by petitioner of its obligation it entered into without any coercion, specially on the part of private respondents.
On the other hand, it is petitioner who is guilty of breach of contract when they dismissed the respondents without just cause and prior to the expiration of the employment contracts. As the records clearly show, petitioner voluntarily entered into the Special Agreement with ITF and by virtue thereof the crew men were actually given their salary differentials in view of the new rates. It cannot be said that it was because of respondents' fault that petitioner made a sudden turn-about and refused to honor the special agreement.
In brief, We declare petitioner guilty of breach of contract and should therefore be made to comply with the directives contained in the disputed Orders of December 19, 1977 and April 3, 1979.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the decision dated March 14, 1977 of the Hearing Officer is SET ASIDE and the Orders dated December 19, 1977 and April 3, 1979 of the National Seamen Board are AFFIRMED in toto. This decision is immediately executory. Without costs.
Makasiar, Fernandez, Guerrero and Melencio-Herrera, JJ., concur.
Teehankee (Chairman), J., concur in the result.