“Clearly, the labor department has not yet taken concrete steps to fulfill the President’s commitment.”
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – On the 100th day of the Duterte administration, the biggest workers’ groups in the Philippines have concluded that not much has actually been done to curb contractualization.
Despite being one of the promises of President Rodrigo Duterte during his campaign, ending the practice of contractualization seems to have stymied the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) that it is still fishing for a consensus among labor groups, and between labor groups and employers’ groups. A consensus that, based on the statements of leaders of the biggest labor groups in the dialogue with Labor officials yesterday, sounded impossible to achieve.
“We weighed the DOLE’s efforts to heed our workers’ pressing demand to end contractualization. Clearly, the labor department has not yet taken concrete steps to fulfill the President’s commitment,” said Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson, in a statement. Some members of the KMU also held a picket protest in front of the DOLE in time for the 100th day of the Duterte administration. Members of the Philippine AirLines Employees Association also held a picket.
During the first 100 days of the Duterte administration, the DOLE has conducted meetings to hear both from labor and employers their views on contractualization. It issued an order suspending registration of new contractors or manpower agencies, an order which other labor groups did not comment upon but which the progressive labor Kilusang Mayo Uno said hardly begins to solve the issue of contractualization. On the contrary, the KMU said, this order only cemented the status of the already established manpower agencies.
A big portion of today’s employed are still in various nonregular employment setups. Most labor groups continue to set their sights on seeing the end of contractualization. But until today the much-criticized Labor Department Order 18-A remains in force. Workers’ groups blame the said order for legitimizing various contractualization setups in hiring workers.
Contractualization is “a long-term strategy for shedding all obligations to workers and eliminating all employee rights based on the existence of an employment relationship.” This was how HB 556, which was filed by Makabayan lawmakers, defined contractualization.
Labor Sec. Bello also invited Bayan Muna Rep. Karlos Zarate in the dialogue. The progressive lawmaker sought the support of labor groups in passing the proposed bill that they have filed in congress seeking to end the practice of contractualization and penalize those found engaged in labor only contracting.
Labor groups saying same things vs contractualization
During the Labor sector dialogue hosted by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Monday, October 3, workers’ groups were asked to give their reaction to the proposal jointly authored by the Department of Trade and Industry and many employers’ groups.
It proposed to “end” contractualization by regularizing contractuals, but retaining them under the employ of third party service providers and not under their actual employers or contracting principals.
With the exception of one labor leader who asked to revise the DTI-Employers’ proposal, all leaders present in the dialogue opposed it. Many described the supposedly win-win proposal as ‘lose-lose’ for workers. (See the DOLE presentation of DTI-Employers’ proposal on continuing contractualization)
At the dialogue were labor representatives from all spectrum of trade unionism in the Philippines – from moderate to progressive and militant. There were unionists from the government-backed Trade Union Congress of the Philippines and allies, from the progressive advocates of genuine unionism comprised by Kilusang Mayo Uno and its allies, and from other groups booted out by the Kilusang Mayo Uno in the 90’s over charges of corruption and selling out to employers,
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III thanked the labor groups who attended the dialogue. But he almost shifted the onus of finalizing a new policy on ending contractualization to the labor groups. The labor secretary asked them for a unified proposal on tackling contractualization. Then he wanted to forge a consensus between labor and management. He asked the labor leaders not to feel disheartened, saying even the peace negotiations between the GRP and the CPP-NDF are making inroads where before it had been thought as improbable.
Reacting to labor leaders’ accusations that the DOLE is backing the ‘win-win’ proposal by the DTI and employers’ groups, Labor Sec. Bello said he can never be a spokesman for employers.
He disowned the DTI-Ecop proposal, saying they only presented it to the labor groups in the dialogue because the employers had presented their “unified” proposal to the DOLE ahead of the labor groups. He added he would have done the same if the labor groups had submitted to the department their own unified proposal.