Philippine Shipping Update - (Issue 2013/03)

In this issue:

  • Supreme Court rules that clear wordings of the master to be "relieved"  indicate resignation and not dismissal
  • DOLE press release on preparing for MLC 2006


Supreme Court rules that clear wordings of a master to be "relieved" indicate resignation and not dismissal

The crewing manager sent a message to the master informing him of various administrative and operational complaints received from the owners of the vessel. The master addressed all the complaints against him and insisted that the accusations by foreign inspectors were racially motivated against Filipino seafarers.

The next day, the master of the vessel sent a message to the crewing manager informing of the unbearable situation on-board the vessel and asked: "THAT ANYHOW TO AVOID REPETITION (ON) MORE HARSH REPORTS TO COME. BETTER ARRANGE MY RELIEVER."

The crewing manager replied that the master will be "relieved" at the next convenient port. The master responded that: "HV NO CHOICE BUT TO ACCEPT YR DECISION. TKS ANYHOW FOR RELIEVING ME IN NEXT CONVENIENT PORT WILL EASE THE BURDEN THAT I HV FELT ONBOARD."

One year after repatriation, the master filed a complaint for illegal dismissal. The master argued that he was a victim of racial discrimination and his decision to be relieved from his post was not voluntary and was the product of extreme pressure as he just wanted to prevent any untoward incident to happen on-board the vessel.

The company contested the claim considering that the master's act should be construed as one of resignation.

The Labor Arbiter ruled in favor of the master but this was reversed by the NLRC. The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the NLRC.

The issue before the Supreme Court was whether there was illegal dismissal or voluntary resignation.

The Supreme Court said that there was resignation on the part of the master.

Resignation is the voluntary act of an employee who finds himself in a situation where he believes that personal reasons cannot be sacrificed in favor of the exigency of the service, such that he has no other choice but to disassociate himself from his employment. This is precisely what obtained in this case.

The tenor of the master's telex message was an unmistakable demand that he be relieved of his assignment. The company met the challenge and accepted the master's resignation. The statements of the master were simple and straightforward. There is no merit to his claim that he was forced to resign due to extreme pressure.

Only two (2) days had elapsed from the time the master received a copy of the complaint from the owners of the vessel until his letter demanding his relief. The telex message outlining numerous complaints against the master probably bruised his ego, causing the master to react impulsively by resigning.

In the words of the Court, the filing of the complaint one year after his alleged termination, coupled with the clear tenor of his resignation letter should be taken to mean that seafarer's filing of the illegal dismissal case was a mere afterthought.

DOLE press release on preparing for MLC 2006

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is now establishing groundwork preparation for implementation of MLC 2006.

The DOLE issued a press release which advised all stakeholders that their focus will be on the welfare and protection of low-income, non-unionized seafarers to bring under the cover of social security seafarers who belong to the lower-end category of the profession.

The DOLE presented the groundwork which would implement the provisions of MLC, 2006, specifically referring to Title 1: the Minimum Requirements for Seafarers; Title 2: Conditions of Employment; Title 3: Accommodation, Recreational Facilities, Food, and Catering; Title 4: Health Protection, Medical Care, Welfare, and Social Protection; and Title 5: Compliance and Enforcement.

The DOLE will conduct dialogues and workshops with the pertinent government agencies pursuant to this exercise within the first half of the year.

Staff Author