By virtue of Executive Order No. 126, Series of 1987 as amended by Executive Order No. 251, Series of 1987, the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) was created to formulate policies, develop plans and programs and set standards and procedures relative to the promotion of conciliation and mediation of labor disputes through preventive mediation, conciliation and voluntary arbitration, among others. Since its creation, the NCMB has been the primary agency exercising jurisdiction over Conciliator-Mediators in the exercise of their functions. Pursuant also to its authority to administer the voluntary arbitration program, the NCMB has been facilitating the accreditation of Voluntary Arbitrators in the country, in coordination with the Tripartite Voluntary Arbitration Advisory Council (TVAAC).

Conciliator-Mediators refer to the officials of the Board whose principal function is to settle and dispose labor disputes through preventive mediation and conciliation. Relying on their persuasive expertise, Conciliator-Mediators take an active role in assisting parties in settling their labor disputes and coming up with an acceptable solution. In conciliation-mediation, the Conciliator-Mediator advises the parties or offers solutions or alternatives to their problems with the end in view of assisting them towards voluntarily reaching their own mutually acceptable settlement of the dispute.

Conciliation-mediation is non-litigious/non-adversarial in nature. As such, the parties may fully ventilate their respective positions and may explore a wider latitude of possible approaches to the problem without being bound with legal technicalities.

Voluntary Arbitrators, upon the other hand, refer to persons mutually named or designated by the parties to the CBA – the employer and the bargaining agent – to hear and decide the issues between them. They may also refer to individuals who have been conferred accreditation by the NCMB to render arbitration services provided under labor laws. One notable characteristic of Voluntary Arbitrators is that they are not employees of the government. They are private individuals who have been selected by the parties, with or without the assistance of the NCMB, to adjudicate their labor dispute.

Despite not being part of the government unit, Voluntary Arbitrators, by the nature of their functions, act in quasi-judicial capacity. In voluntary arbitration, the parties select a competent, trained and impartial third person who is tasked to decide on the merits of the case and whose decision is final and executory. Voluntary Arbitrators exercise exclusive and original jurisdiction over (a) unresolved grievances arising from the interpretation or implementation of the CBA; (b) unresolved grievances arising from the interpretation or enforcement of company personnel policies; (c) wage distortion issues arising from the application of any wage orders in organized establishments; and (d) unresolved grievances arising from the interpretation and implementation of the productive incentive programs under Republic Act 6971. Voluntary Arbitrators may, upon agreement by the parties, also hear and decide all other disputes, including unfair labor practices and bargaining deadlocks.

END/Kim Roque-Aquino