Will contractualization end under Duterte administration?

BULATLAT FILE PHOTO. Patricia and Camille, contractual workers in an electronics firm, join Labor Day march to Mendiola (Photo by M. Salamat)
BULATLAT FILE PHOTO. Patricia and Camille, contractual workers in an electronics firm, join Labor Day march to Mendiola (Photo by M. Salamat)

“We welcome Duterte’s vow to stop contractualization. We have yet to see him keep his promise.”


MANILA – The incoming Duterte administration has been laying the groundwork for tackling contractualization, the employment setup that became a hot election issue last May and one where Duterte led the presidentiables in unequivocally promising to end it. A week before his inauguration, his economic team especially his Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said they have been given the marching order to work on it, but based on reports these past two weeks, it is apparently working with lower assumption of the extent of contractual-like non-regular work. There are more contractuals or non-regulars than highlighted in findings of government surveys. (Read: Aquino’s legacy| Proliferation of contractual, seasonal, low-quality jobs)

Duterte’s economic team is also making careful steps around his vow against contractualization, as they are smoothing it out first with the business sector beginning this Tuesday in a consultative meeting in Davao City. This, amid the World Bank’s country representative’s caution against scrapping or abolishing contractualization.

In Davao City where President-elect Duterte hailed, two of his children who were voted as Mayor and Vice-Mayor, are seen as siding with investors in the ongoing strike of fruit workers over contractualization. Davao City Mayor Sarah Duterte’s husband is lawyer of Japanese-owned Nakashin fruit company, an employer of longtime contractuals now on strike. After Duterte’s son, Davao City vice-mayor Paolo Duterte, failed to broker a deal between the workers who are demanding reinstatement as regular workers, and the Japanese capitalist who is demanding the end of strike without following through on his early promise to reinstate and regularize them by batches, Davao City Vice Mayor Duterte asked the President-elect this week not to push through with appointing as Labor Undersecretary Joel Maglungsod, former Anakpawis Partylist Representative and long-time labor leader with the KMU.

Given all these, will the incoming Duterte administration genuinely end or make a dent toward lessening contractualization? Or will his economic team end up like the outgoing Aquino administration that had claimed to want to end contractualization, yet issued an order that labor groups say legitimizes contractualization?

Floodgates of contractualization: the distinction between allowable and not

“The distinction between ‘core’ and ‘non-core’ aspects of a company’s business – like the Labor Department’s distinction between ‘legitimate’ and ‘fly-by-night’ contractors, the Labor Code’s distinction between Labor-Only Contracting and Job Contracting – has opened the floodgates of contractualization.” This is the assessment of labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno of current government policies issued to regulate contractualization. It prompted them to seek its abolition and the scrapping of labor laws that propped conractualization.

But this week, Duterte’s economic team issued pronouncements showing it will not scrap but just go for ‘strict and equitable’ implementation of current labor laws. Duterte’s incoming Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez clarified that “When the president-elect was talking about an end to contractualization [during the campaign], he was talking about ‘endo’ [where] five months and you’re out.”

There would still be seasonal and contractual workers, he said, but the President-elect would not allow it if the workers were to be kicked out just to avoid being made permanent and therefore entitled to more labor and security benefits.

How many contractuals will be allowed?

Sa akin, for practical reasons, siguro I would consider an 80-20 arrangement lalo na kung malaki ‘yung kompanya,” incoming Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello was quoted as saying in media interviews on Tuesday, at the sidelines of their consultation with the business sector. With this, “the floodgates of contractualization” that labor groups said have have been opened wide under Aquino can continue to rampage.

Because there are allowable or permissible contractualization, KMU pointed out in a statement April 30, the likes of what they call as contractualization king Henry Sy, Forbes-listed as richest in the Philippines, can claim SM has no contractuals. “They just have seasonal workers, all year round,” said the KMU.

“We welcome Duterte’s vow to stop contractualization. We have yet to see him keep his promise,” said Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago. She added that in the weeks to come, they will remain vigilant and continue to hold protests calling for the abolition of contractualization and recognition of workers’ rights and demands.

“Should the administration start to fire its attacks on the people, the people has to be ready to act,” Elago ended. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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