On the heels of the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Labor Relations Commission (“NLRC”) issued NLRC En Banc Resolution No. 03-20, series of 2020, or the Interim Amendments to the 2011 NLRC Rules of Procedure (“Interim Amendments”).
Under the Interim Amendments, the conduct of mandatory conciliation and mediation conferences were suspended, making it discretionary upon the Labor Arbiters. The Interim Amendments likewise suspended the simultaneous filing of position papers under Rule V, Section 12(a) of the 2011 NLRC Rules of Procedure, which provides that the Labor Arbiter shall direct the parties to simultaneously submit their verified position papers, with supporting documents and affidavits, if any, within 10 calendar days from the date of termination of the mandatory conciliation and mediation conference. Also, under the Interim Amendments, summons shall be issued within two days from receipt of the complaint. An order directing the filing of position papers shall be issued within five days from receipt of the return, and the position papers shall be submitted by registered mail, or authorized courier, within 15 days from receipt of the order. Either party will have five days from receipt of the order to file a motion to set the case for mandatory conciliation and mediation conference, setting forth the terms and conditions of the proposed settlement, including the amount being offered. The other party then had three days to respond and make a counteroffer. The Labor Arbiter will then determine the propriety of setting the case for mandatory conciliation and mediation conference; otherwise, the parties will be directed to file their position papers.
While the COVID-19 pandemic remains a veritable issue, government offices and services have started easing COVID-19-related restrictions and protocols. Accordingly, on October 18, 2022, the NLRC issued NLRC En Banc Resolution No. 12-22, series of 2022, captioned Lifting of the Interim Amendments to the 2011 NLRC Rules of Procedure. The conduct of mandatory conciliation and mediation conferences shall now resume, as well as the simultaneous filing of position papers under Rule V, Section 12(a) of the 2011 NLRC Rules of Procedure.
While the Interim Amendments have been lifted, paving for the return of mandatory conciliation and mediation conferences, the NLRC, through NLRC En Banc Resolution No. 13-22, series of 2022, or the Hybrid Mode in the Conduct of Mandatory Conciliation and Mediation Conferences and Other Hearings , resolved that the conduct of the mandatory conciliation and meditation conferences may be done, as far as practicable: [a] face-to-face; [b] by videoconferencing, [c] by other electronic means; or [d] by any combination thereof. If any of the parties have no access to technology for electronic hearings, the NLRC may provide a hearing room and gadgets for their use, subject to availability.
Typically, the NLRC uses Zoom, Google Meet, and Facebook Messenger for videoconferencing. Other videoconferencing applications may also be used, subject to the availability and accessibility of these applications to the parties.