By Edith Regalado (The Philippine Star), May 2, 2017
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – President Duterte vowed to fulfill his campaign promise to put a stop to labor contractualization but asked that he be given more time, as it would not be that easy, especially in certain industries.
“I stand firm in my commitment to end endo, just give us time,” the President told a crowd gathered yesterday for the Labor Day celebration in the People’s Park here. Endo is short for end-of-contract, the other term for contractualization.
There was no mention of a wage hike in the President’s 48-minute speech.
The President first met with leaders and representatives of various labor groups in the country to discuss their concerns, which he said he already knew beforehand.
On endo, Duterte said he would consider the nature of the businesses, especially those related to agriculture, which is seasonal.
“You have to make the corrections. They are still in the process of doing it. But I said and I say now, that I stand firm in my conviction to end endo. The Labor Code guarantees all workers the right to security of tenure. This has to be strictly enforced. Panahon lang (In due time),” he said.
“To this end I will issue an executive order directing the strict implementation of existing laws against endo and labor-only contracting,” the President added.
He also revealed ordering the labor department to tap workers’ unions for the task of inspecting or monitoring compliance with labor laws of the more than 1.2 million business establishments in the country.
“We will hire more labor inspectors. There are 1.2 million businesses in the country… with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)’s very limited number of personnel, they cannot be inspecting about 1,000 establishments a day,” he said.
The Chief Executive said that the trade unions and their staff would be the ones to conduct the inspection.
“This is my proposal. I further order DOLE to deputize trade unions and their staff to conduct inspections of all establishments. Kamo na mismo labor unions, you do the inspections. But all I ask of you is to be honest with me in your reports,” he said.
Duterte explained that it is important that labor organizations should be honest in their reports to him.
“Just tell me the truth. Do not lie to me because if I adopt your report, I will be put to shame if you were lying in your report. And there is something wrong in our relationship,” he added.
Duterte also asked the trade unions and labor organizations to submit their nominees to the different tripartite bodies for processing in accordance with the law.
Protect workers’ rights
The government is committed to protecting and defending the basic rights of workers in all industries, the President said yesterday in his Labor Day message.
“We pay tribute to the Filipino workers here and across the globe. Workers play a significant role in pushing for the rights to humane condition at work, basic wages and organized acts, including collective bargaining and unionism. Government recognizes these basic rights of workers in all industries; we are committed to defend and protect these rights,” the President said in a statement.
The President likewise emphasized the vital role of the DOLE in job creation and in bringing down unemployment in the country, in coordination with other agencies.
He also stressed his administration would make sure every worker is fairly compensated for his hard work.
“Everyone who contributes labor as part of his commitment to nation-building deserves nothing less than a share of the fruits of his hard work,” the President said.
An administration official admitted there is much to be done to address the concerns of workers, including contractualization, a scheme the President has vowed to eradicate.
Terry Ridon, chairman of the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor, said contractualization has stunted the salaries of millions of workers around the country.
“With rising prices of basic commodities, they (workers) have no hope of economic relief for as long as endo practices continue to remain in place,” Ridon said in a statement, referring to the shorter term for “end of contract” or contractualization.
He said labor contractualization is “still firmly in place as a business policy,” a situation that he said “provides business with a strong economic leverage to undervalue the worth of honest, dignified work.”
“It is unfortunate that the new anti-contractualization policy of the DOLE has been severely limited by existing laws allowing the practice of endo,” he said.
“Because of years of stunted wages inconsistent with a living wage, our endo workers cannot cope with rising prices of basic commodities,” he added.
Ridon said that with stunted wages, millions of endo workers had to live in the slums to save on housing costs. He said workers in informal settlements also suffer from a lack of access to healthcare and education for their families.
“Even with universal healthcare and education, many endo workers still find themselves hard pressed to cover their families’ medical expenses and get their children through school,” the official said.
Ridon said the government should certify as urgent a bill that would finally outlaw contractualization.
Improve work conditions for women
Vice President Leni Robredo, for her part, called on the administration to improve the working conditions of women as well as put an end to contractualization.
“The building of a strong economy is a result of hard work and patience of our workers. More than expressing gratitude to them, it is imperative that we strengthen our protection of their rights and welfare,” the Vice President said in her Labor Day message in Filipino.
Robredo said the government must ensure workers do not suffer abuses such as being subject to contractualization.
Non-government organization Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) echoed Robredo’s call for better working conditions for women.
CWR, a research and training institution for women established in 1982, said 5.4 million Filipino women could not find decent and regular jobs, citing the latest government unemployment report.
“The country fails to create productive industry jobs, which results in more women finding jobs in the services sector, assigning them in low-skilled, low wage and non-regular jobs,” CWR executive director Jojo Guan said.
“With such trend of jobs available to women, they could hardly unleash their potential as nation builders,” Guan said.
She said unleashing women’s potential also means ending the scheme of contractualization which, according to her, is prevalent among industries that mostly employ women.
“The government should take a courageous stand in eradicating contractualization and avoid creating department orders that only help companies circumvent the law,” Guan pointed out.
She said women’s status is at stake since most of them work on a non-regular basis.
“With regular jobs and decent wages, we can be bricks in building a better society. Count us in!” Guan said.
Labor groups claimed the recent issuance of DOLE Order 174 did not end contractualization, but only “legalizes” it.
Meanwhile, only 1,659 jobseekers were hired on the spot (HOTS) yesterday from among the 34,605 who trooped to the different government-initiated job fairs nationwide, DOLE reported. – With Alexis Romero, Ric Sapnu