By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — Two decades after the Aquino government successfully rammed through the first major revision of the country’s Labor Code to the detriment of workers’ rights, the Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) recently aired its desire to revise it anew. As with previous attempts to change the Labor Code, their stated reasons boil down to the ‘imperatives of creating jobs to improve the economy.’
Their announcement followed the first major public appearance of ex-Senator Ernesto Herrera, leader of the government-backed Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP). Herrera is the principal author of Republic Act 6715 of 1989, dubbed as the Herrera Law, the first major revision of the Labor Code, which was passed in 1974 during the Marcos dictatorship. It was followed a few weeks later by the “Wage Rationalization Act” or RA 6727, which provided for the creation of regional wage boards, composed of representatives of the government, corporations, and labor, for the purpose of determining wage increases. This, workers asserted, was meant to weaken the national unity and struggle of workers for legislated wage increases.
After his role in changing the Labor Code, Herrera lost his reelection bid for the senate. But recently, he came out of hibernation to lead TUCP in the filing of wage hike petitions in some regional boards, while the rest of the labor sector have given up on these “inutile” wage boards and are lobbying instead for a legislated wage hike.
What is in store for private sector employees and workers now that the ECOP and TUCP, which progressive unions accuse of conniving to mangle workers’ rights, are again actively pushing for their respective agenda? These two groups, who are favored by the government and the International Labor Organization (ILO), also often represent the two sides of the tripartite body that formulates proposals for labor legislation.
Will another round of revisions of the Labor Code result in jobs creation and improvements in the economy, which is reeling from a crisis?
Past Labor Code Revisions Made Workers Poorer, More Exploited
Experience hardly exhibited what ECOP president Edgardo Lacson said last week, that “the Constitution and the Labor Code have a preferential bias for labor as based on a time-honored principle of social justice observed in almost all democratic countries.”
Corporate profits have been rising in double digit rates up to 2007, before the crisis hit the economy. In 2004 the aggregate net profit of the top 1000 corporations in the Philippines increased by 160 percent.
In 2006, the top 20 percent of the population, numbering around 3.5 million families account for 52.8 percent or more than half of total family income, while the poorest 80 percent or 13.9 million families have to contend with the remaining 47.3 percent. The income of the top 10 percent is 19 times more than that of the poorest 10 percent.
Since there were no wage increases at all since June 2008, the ‘inconvenient truth’ about rising profits vs falling incomes is evidently still in effect.
As far as job creation is concerned, from 25.37 million to 32.41 million Filipinos are either jobless or in poor quality work. This is equivalent to 64.4 percent or to as much as 82.2 percent of the country’s labor force of 39.39 million in 2009.