“There really is something wrong in a system where workers are being deprived of the salary they deserve while companies are allowed to milk as much profits from their businesses. In the first place, there will be no progress and growth in any economy if not for workers.”
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – “Regular jobs with living wages. That is what the Aquino administration should work on if it wants to truly address widespread poverty in the country,” said Makabayan senatorial candidate Teddy Casiño in a statement issued this Labor Day. Running this midterm elections for the Senate after three terms as partylist representative, Casiño is regarded as a rarity at the campaign trail. One of few ordinary citizens turned senatoriable, he is pitted against sons and daughters of wealthy and long-time politicians such as Enrile, Angara, Aquino, Magsaysay, Villar and others.
On Labor Day and after that, Casiño urged the government and media to look into the continued practice of labor contractualization where employees are given only 5-month contracts, among other forms of ‘flexible work arrangements,’ to prevent them from being regularized on the job. To be regular entitles the worker to security of tenure and a host of labor benefits as prescribed by the Labor Code.
“For decades, small to medium and large businesses have been abusing, circumventing and perhaps influencing labor laws and depriving our citizens of a decent life,” said the three-term congressman.
Before he became a partylist representative of Bayan Muna, Casiño, a student leader and journalist once, served as writer for progressive labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno. At the Labor Day celebration in Liwasang Bonifacio, he told the crowd that he is not just the lone senatoriable from ‘karaniwang tao,’ he is the lone candidate who hailed from KMU.
Having followed the issues of workers even as a partylist representative, Casiño is mindful of how among non-regular workers in non-agriculture industries, more than half are contractual workers.
Casiño bases his data on government statistics. Actual figures may be worse, as labor unions affiliated with the KMU, and with the alliance against contractualization, the Act2Win, report that in many companies, contractual or non-regular workers outnumber the regular.
Many of these non-regular workers and employees, Casiño said, are in business process outsourcing, wholesale and retail trade, manufacturing and construction. The companies employing contractuals are also frequently making big profits, belying the employers’ claims that being hard-up amid stiff competition is their reason for resorting to contractualization.
In fact, even Filipino businessmen who have made it to Forbes’ list of billionaires, such as the likes of Henry Sy, are also dubbed as contractual kings in the Philippines.
“Many contractual workers have been working in their respective companies for years. Their contracts are merely renewed and they are not given benefits and adequate wage rates. This is even happening in government institutions,” Casiño explained, recalling complaints of public school teachers who are yet to be regularized amid serving for a decade or so.
Contractualization now plagues also the health profession, as nurses get employed under contractual setups even in public hospitals, the health workers had previously reported. Even among government offices, the Confederation for the Recognition, Unity and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage) had reported there are growing ranks of contractuals.
After years of receiving complaints and cases requiring inquiry into different cases of forced or ‘deceptive’ early retirement – most to pave way for contractualization schemes – Casiño concluded that companies are resorting to contracting and subcontracting to reduce labor costs and avoid having labor unions. All of which, he said, are hitting the workers hard.
No more shortchanging the workers
“There really is something wrong in a system where workers are being deprived of the salary they deserve while companies are allowed to milk as much profits from their businesses. In the first place, there will be no progress and growth in any economy if not for workers,” Casiño said.
He questioned the ‘logic’ of allowing “rotating contractualization” of employees who actually serve as a company’s main workforce.
For example, he asked: How could a department store or a restaurant get away with almost all workers at its employ as contractuals? If this continues, Casiño warned that despite the definitions provided by the Labor Code, one can no longer become regular on the job.
Casiño affirmed what progressive labor groups have been saying for years now, that contractual employment aggravates domestic unemployment and underemployment by destroying regular and permanent jobs while exposing contractual or temporary workers to substandard and inhumane working conditions.
“It is no surprise that underemployment in the country continues to soar, reaching a high of 20.9% or one in five workers in January this year. It means many Filipinos are still looking for additional work and income to support their families,” Casiño said.
The senatorial bet said prohibiting contractualization and subcontracting and raising wages will not only uplift the lives of Filipino workers but will also boost local growth.
“With higher wages, workers will have more to spend on food and health, resulting in a healthier workforce and boosting the local economy with higher demand for goods and services,” he said.
Casiño vowed that if he is elected as Senator, he would file a bill amending the Labor Code of the Philippines to bar employers from abusing provisions on contracting and subcontracting. He said he will also push for replacing policies which allow contractualization. He promised to call for the investigation of companies that practice illegal contracting and subcontracting.
He added that he will push for his comprehensive platform of agrarian reform, national industrialization and lower prices in the Senate to address the root causes of poverty.