“Back in 2010, there were at least 1.4 million workers, where 22 percent of the total government workers who are either contractuals or job orders, but there are no longer any data available on contractualization as the Civil Service Commission has ceased requiring government offices to submit copies of contracts.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – There is one contractual worker in every three rank-and-file employee. These workers do not have job tenure, and are also not entitled to benefits.
“In a way, they are workers but not in the truest sense of it. They are employees but, at the same time, not employed,” said Ferdinand Gaite, president of the Confederation for Unity Advancement and Recognition of Government Employees (Courage).
In a forum organized by the All-UP Workers’ Alliance on Feb. 24, government employees and labor rights activists gathered to expose and criticize the rampant contractualization of workers in government.
The forum was held at the Little Theater, University of the Philippines-Manila.
“Back in 2010, there were at least 1.4 million workers, where 22 percent of the total government workers who are either contractuals or job orders,” said Gaite.
There are no longer any data available on contractualization as the Civil Service Commission has ceased requiring government offices to submit copies of contracts, added Gaite.
Ana Leah Escresa-Colina of the labor thinktank Eiler said Philippine labor laws have paved the way for contractualization, giving management the prerogative on what jobs it could outsource or hire on a contractual basis. Most of the jobs being outsourced, she added, include janitors and security guards, whom the management considers as “not necessary” and “not desirable.”
Contractualization and the devolution of the heath system have contributed to the shortage in health workers and lack of health infrastructure in the country, said Jossel Ebesate, president of the Alliance of Health Workers.
There are only 16,000 barangay health centers out of the 42,000 villages when the ratio, Ebesate said, should be at least 1:1. There is also a shortage in government hospitals with 410 hospitals in 1,495 municipalities and 115 cities. Most, he added, are not equipped to deal with communicable diseases.
There is also shortage of more than 100,000 hospital beds.
“This is the reason we have long queues at the PGH (Philippine General Hospital),” he said.
These patients, Ebesate said, could not afford to go to private hospitals in the provinces. They even have to borrow money so they could afford their fare to Manila.
The irony, Ebesate said, is that there are at least 200,000 unemployed registered nurses and 300,000 who work either as call center agents or spa therapists but there is currently a shortage of at least 130,000 health workers in the public health care system.
Contractualization is rampant in the public health system, Ebesate said.
The Department of Health, he added, promotes volunteerism or medical missions. At times, he added, they are the ones who pay for their volunteer work. Interns and doctors seeking residency are also tasked to perform regular functions.
Doctors seeking residency, Ebesate said, work at least 86 hours per week, when labor laws in the country dictates that work should be limited to only 40 hours per week.
“When you talk to them, they are so haggard,” he noted.
Ebesate, a chief nurse in PGH, added that nurses, too, are overworked. They are made to attend to at least 17 patients, instead of the ideal ratio of one nurse per 12 patients. These patients, he added, range from those who are in need of minimal medical care to intensive care.
Job orders, too, he said, are common nowadays in the public health system. This means that there is no employer-employee relationship, which results to the absence of the mandatory benefits given to permanent employees.
Melania Flores of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers said there are roughly 49,000 teachers who are contractual workers.
The Aquino government’s heavily-criticized K+12 program, along with privatization and rationalization in the public education system, does not look very promising for state workers who demand to end the rampant contractualization and the lack of job tenure not just for teachers but even non-teaching personnel, said Flores.
For one, the K+12 program threatens to displace teachers, administrative staff and non-teaching personnel from years 2016 to 2021, she added.
In the UP system, Flores said the administration is already beginning to dissolve plantilla positions who receive salary grades 1 to 10. These, she cited, include janitorial staff and security guards, as such services are now being outsourced.
“It is such a shame that UP is among the top labor rights violators,” Flores lamented.
Flores further explained that in the UP system, the administration is only waiting for tenured workers to retire from service but has no plans to replace the said plantilla position.
“We will not allow that,” one UP worker shouted back during the forum.
Carl Ramota, a professor at UP Manila, said the rampant contractualization has led to forced migration.
Health workers are not spared from labor migration.
Citing the case of the so-called Sentosa 27, Ebesate shared how some of them were doctors who studied the nursing program in search of greener pastures abroad. They, however, ended up as victims of contract substitution, where they got lower salaries compared to what was stipulated in the contract they signed in the Philippines.
Ebesate said the Sentosa 27 received no assistance nor support from the Philippine government. They, fortunately, won all their labor cases they filed in the US.
Ebesate said there are almost 240,000 Filipino nurses working abroad.
Teachers, too, have fallen victim to human trafficking, said Cherry Clemente of Migrante International, an overseas Filipino workers group.
Clemente cited the case of the so-called “DC Teachers,” where over a hundred teachers paid big recruitment fees only to find out that the jobs promised to them did not exist. A handful, on the other hand, who were able to leave for the US are working in low-paying teaching posts, a far cry to what was promised to them.
Clemente said the lack of stable and decent-paying jobs in the country has forced many Filipinos to leave the country and work abroad. Citing data of independent thinktank Ibon Foundation, she said that some 6,000 Filipinos leave to find work outside the country everyday.
Overseas Filipinos Workers’ remittances have kept the economy afloat and yet, Clemente lamented, genuine development could hardly be felt in the country. The cycle of labor migration has continued from parents down to their children, she added.
“Every time a Filipino leaves the country, it exposes the government’s failure to provide jobs,” she added.
Ebesate said government employees are calling not just to end contractualization but also for the upgrading of their salaries. Nurses, he added, have long demanded a salary increase but the government is quick to dismiss it, saying that it has no budget.
“But we saw how they failed to explain where millions of funds went,” he added, making an apparent reference to the infamous pork barrel scam and Aquino’s Disbursement Acceleration Program, both ruled by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.