Jobs under the Arroyo administration
While the unemployed
have very limited options under the employment generation plan of the
Macapagal-Arroyo administration, employed workers are being battered by
labor contractualization and other flexible work arrangements.
BY MARYA G. SALAMAT
administration boasts that it is handling the economy well claiming a 6.1
percent growth in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the 4th
quarter of 2005. It also said that it was able to generate 750,000 jobs
in 2005 and achieved a slight improvement in the unemployment rate in
January of 2006 down to 7.4 percent from 7.7 percent.
But a survey
conducted by the World Bank revealed that almost a fifth of the Filipino
people reported experiencing hunger while about half considered themselves
impoverished. If only 7.4 percent of the population is unemployed, how
come 17 percent of the population experienced hunger?
pointed to the unproductive quality of jobs being generated. In 2005 most
jobs generated were in unpaid family work in agriculture and in
own-account jobs. This is consistent with the employment generation plan
of the Macapagal-Arroyo administration. A January article of the Business
World revealed that
Malacanang hinged its job generation plan on developing agribusiness lands
(more of agriculture) and propping up micro businesses to become small and
medium enterprises (SMEs). Agriculture and small to medium enterprises
historically employ the bulk of the country’s labor force.
Added to this, the
Arroyo administration aims to attract foreign investors by providing tax
incentives and offering cheap labor in the form of labor flexibilisation.
described labor flexibilisation as the preferred labor setup in today’s
globalizing economy. This set-up was first implemented in export
processing zones and industrial parks.
rescinded Department of Labor (DOLE) Order No. 10-97, only to replace it
with Order No. 18-02. DOLE Order No. 10-97 provided a list of jobs that
cannot be contracted. In doing so, it allowed the contractualization of
jobs outside of the list. DOLE Order No.18-02 declared the practice of
contractualization as legal for as long as it does not fall within the
category of “labor only contracting”, which is measured by the amount of
capital and control of the supposed employer. It also equated security of
tenure to having a definite contract instead of the regular and permanent
status previously enjoyed by workers who have worked for more than six
months. Lately, the Arroyo government initiated moves to revise the Labor
Code to reinforce and legalize the various practices of labor
means replacing regular workers with temporary workers who receive lower
wages with no or less benefits. These temporary workers are sometimes
called contractuals, trainees, apprentices, helpers, casuals, piece
raters, agency-hired, project employees, etc. They do the work of regular
workers for a specified and limited period of time, usually less then six
months. The work they do is “desirable and necessary” for the company’s
survival, but they never become regular employees even if they get rehired
repeatedly under new contracts.
data from 1990-94, a research by the Asia-Pacific Research Network (APRN)
in 2000 revealed that the combined share of casual, contractual and
part-time workers in total enterprise-based employment was between 14-15
percent. It went up to 18.1 percent from 1994 to 1995. By 1997, the figure
has reached 21.1 percent, meaning that for every five workers one is a
casual, contractual or part-timer worker.
The data excluded
other forms of contractual labor arrangements such as subcontracting,
agency-hiring, job-out, home work and other schemes that deny workers
their security of tenure.
In the more than 20
branches of Shoe Mart (SM), one of the biggest chain of shopping malls in
the country, in 2002, nine out of ten workers are contractuals, hired
either through an agency or by a concessionaire, said Maristel Garcia,
spokesperson of the Sandigan ng mga Manggagawa sa Shoemart, the union of
in export zones and industrial parks around the country, such as those in
and Laguna. A survey of APRN covering 14 unions under the Kilusang Mayo
Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement) in the National Capital Region
revealed that contractual workers comprise 67 percent of the workforce at
the time. This is despite KMU’s efforts at protecting job security and
“It is true that
contractual labor is now really extensive. Easily seven in every 10
companies practice contractualization,” Donald Dee, president of the
Employers Confederation of the Philippines, told Manila Times in 2003. “We
know for a fact that contractualization is meant to avoid regularization,”
Today the share of
contractuals in the total workforce may even be bigger. For example, after
SM management practically crushed the union by terminating all striking
union workers in 2003, Garcia said, it stopped regularizing workers and
was able to employ more contractuals.
In other large firms,
threats of retrenchment complemented by early retirement schemes resulted
in a stripped-to-the-core number of regular workers. The Philippine Long
Distance Company (PLDT), the country’s largest telecom company, was able
to reduce its workforce from 14,000 to 10,000. Its rank and file union
membership has dwindled from 7,000 to 4,100. It was also able to reduce
the 3,000-member supervisory union to just about 2,000. The rest of
PLDT’s required manpower comes from contractual workers who are paid
piece meal, per phone installation or telecom services sold.
Asahi Glass Corporation, the ranks of regular workers have been decimated
after a wave of forcible retirements. Retired workers were subsequently
rehired as contractuals. At present, there are five contractual employees
for every regular worker.
further depresses the already low wages of Filipino workers. APRN’s
research revealed that at least 4 out of 10 contractuals are paid below
the mandated minimum wage. Contractuals spend as much as PhP500 to
PhP1,000 in application requirements and cost of uniforms and other work
paraphernalia such as sewing kits for garments workers.
While performing the
work of regular workers who earn a bit more than the minimum wage on
account of their previous collective bargaining agreements, SM
contractuals for instance don’t get to enjoy the same benefits.
refuse overtime work, which during the peak season means working for more
than 16 hours continuously. In some Bulacan industrial parks, children
help their parents fulfill their quota working well into the next morning
to rush products for shipment during peak seasons.
APRN also found that
contractualization further brings down the workers’ self-esteem. As a
whole, management looks down on workers but their biggest contempt is
reserved for contractuals. Bosses tend to heap more verbal abuses and
workload on their contractual workers.
Two opposing camps
Anakpawis (Toiling Masses), Bayan Muna (People First) and Gabriela Women’s
Party, as well as other concerned senators and congressmen, have filed
House Bill 5996 providing for the regularization of contractual workers
and the prohibition of labor contractualization. In 2004, they worked for
a P50 ($0.97 at $1 : P51.125) wage hike for contractuals. They also tried
to plug loopholes in the Labor Code that open the workers to exploitative
setups in the name labor flexibilisation. .
On the other side,
the administration sponsored Senate Bill 2570 and 6031 providing for
flexible work arrangements. The DOLE also released orders legalizing
contractualization and other flexible work arrangement such as the
compressed workweek, which allows companies to extend the work day beyond
eight hours without overtime pay. .
At present, DOLE and
employers’ groups are batting for amendments to the Labor Code consistent
with the recommendations of the 2000 Labor Code Review Project, which
reinforces and legalizes existing practices of labor contractualization,
lengthens apprenticeship periods, sets hourly wage rates, allows flexible
working hours, provides for shortened breaks and a compressed workweek,
and redefines the status of workers. .
Thus, in Congress
there are two conflicting proposals to amend the Labor Code, one coming
from administration legislators, DOLE and employers’ groups and the other
from progressive party-lists and labor federations. Employers and the DOLE
are openly campaigning for their version, throwing the specter of firms
closing down and abandoning the country if workers’ wages and benefits are
Workers can only hope
that their version be heard in Congress. But then again, they may
have to start from redrawn battle lines – the few representatives they
have in Congress are currently under persecution by the Arroyo
PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION ■
© 2006 Bulatlat
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