Contractualization of labor is a strongly debated issue in the Philippines. It was recently thrust into the limelight when regular employees of Philippine Airlines (PAL) were terminated with an offer to be re-hired again through sub-contractors.
These realities inspired the authors to conduct a qualitative study that explored the perception and understanding of different social groups on contractualization. Data were gathered through interviews with four human resources supervisors of the contracting companies, four administrators of contracting agencies, and eight blue-collar contractual workers (security guards, maintenance personnel and janitors).
Results revealed varying perspectives on contractualization and issues arising from this employment scheme.
Companies and the contracting agencies described contractualization as a means to promote cost efficiency and a way to avoid having labor unions. The contracting agencies also view contractualization as a means to provide services to companies. Therefore it is their duty to ensure that specifications requested or imposed by the company are strictly adhered to.
Contractual workers, on the other hand, view contractualization as a means to diminish their control on their working condition and environment. Although this perception greatly lowers their job satisfaction and motivation as employees, they feel helpless and incapable of changing their situation. They are also unsure as to who or which institution can help change their plight and take care of their well-being as employees.
The human resources (HR) practitioners clearly stated in the interviews that the contractual workers are not their employees, all employee- or labor-related concerns and issues must be dealt with by the agency. However, the agencies also claim that they are not their employees since they only serve as a go-between.
The issue of which organization should look after the welfare of contractual workers is highlighted even more if it involves fly-by-night agencies that do not have sufficient capital or resources. Both HR practitioners and worker interviewees emphasized that such agencies make the employment conditions worse for contractual employees.
As this study shows, the varying perspectives on contractualization affect the working condition, environment, satisfaction and motivation of contractual employees. Given the growing prevalence of contractual employment in the country not only among blue-collar but professional employees as well, there seems to be a need for concrete interventions that can help this marginalized sector in Philippine society.
Stronger and more visible support mechanisms may be put in place perhaps by the government, labor groups and employer groups that can help uphold rights and ensure the well-being of contractual employees. –Fille Cainglet, Jerome Zapata, Thea Elyssa Vega, Philippine Daily Inquirer
This article was based on the thesis (“A Social Representations Study of Contractualization”, 2012) of the authors as students of the Psychology Department of the Ateneo de Manila University under the mentorship of Dr. Ma. Elizabeth J. Macapagal. For comments and questions, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.