THE labor movement is expecting President Duterte to reveal the government’s next step in its promise to end contractualization in his second State of the Nation Address (Sona).
Labor groups Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) and Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) are demanding Duterte to address head on whether he is still keen to end the practice of endo (end of contract). A year under Duterte, they said the government failed to scrap contractual arrangement as a mode of employment, which the Chief Executive vowed to abolish during the campaign period.
ALU-TUCP, for one, is wishing Duterte has a “surprise gift” for workers on his Sona. “The Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines is hoping President Duterte [will] finally announce his decision to fulfill his promise to end contractualization and free millions of precarious contractual or short-term workers from the bondage of labor slavery without security of tenure, poor wage and benefits,” ALU-TUCP Spokesman Alan A. Tanjusay told the BusinessMirror.
The labor group in early-May submitted to the Office of the President a draft executive order (EO) that will prohibit all forms of contractual arrangement. According to Tanjusay and Labor Undersecretary Joel B. Maglunsod, the draft EO was requested by Duterte during his Labor Day meeting with labor leaders in Davao City.
However, two months after submission, Malacañang has yet to disclose if Duterte has read through the draft EO already, leaving ALU-TUCP hanging in the air.
“Frankly speaking, that ‘surprise gift’ we are expecting in Duterte’s Sona is his EO banning all forms of fixed-term employment,” Tanjusay said.
In an e-mail to the BusinessMirror, KMU Chairman Elmer C. Labog said his group is also expecting Duterte to address contractualization in his report to the nation. KMU, for its part, is pushing the radical stance of abolishing the practice of endo and “penalizing businessmen, especially the big foreign and local ones, who implement” the mode of employment.
On top of this, Labog said KMU would like to see Duterte push his so-called supermajority in Congress to prioritize the passage of House Bill 556, or the anticontractualization bill, filed by the Makabayan bloc in Congress.
Labor expert Rene E. Ofreneo of the University of the Philippines said that, while Duterte vowed to end contractualization in three months, it took the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) nine months to issue Department Order (DO) 174.
DO 174, issued by Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III in mid-March, imposes tighter rules on contractual arrangements. However, instead of drawing praise, Bello received flak from both labor groups and economists.
The order prohibited the practices of labor-only contracting, farming of work through cabo, contracting out of jobs through an in-house agency and contracting out of jobs due to a strike or lockout, whether actual or imminent, among others.
On one hand, labor groups, including ALU-TUCP and KMU, called on Duterte to scrap DO 174, saying the prohibitions stated under it were already banned by existing laws. Economists, on the other hand, said the government will have difficulty implementing the orders. Likewise, they said the government should avoid reducing the labor market into a sphere involving only firms and workers.
“Duterte promised to end contractualization in three months. [It took the government] nine months [before it] issued DO 174, which many unions refused to accept,” Ofreneo told the BusinessMirror.
“The reality is it is difficult to balance the interests of the two sides—labor sector and employer sector—that are diametrically opposite [in positions]. What is really needed is to curb abuses in recruitment, hiring and deployment,” Ofreneo added.
The labor expert said that, while DO 174 was able to enforce “tighter monitoring and inspectorate”, it provided little impact on “ending short-term hiring”under the context of a labor market influenced by globalization and regionalization.
“There is no law declaring unlawful [contractual arrangement], as demanded by the trade unions, and DO 174 can only tighten the rules [on employment],” Ofreneo said.
On his Sona, Ofreneo said the Chief Executive must vow to take immediate action on contractualization to weather the mood of the labor movement, which was, at first, on his side, but now is gaining more and more reason to troop back to the streets. “For the second year, [Duterte must create] a more decisive and focused program of creating more and better jobs for all areas and sectors of the economy,” Ofreneo said.
Tanjusay is expecting the same from the President. “Sana sabihin na niya ano ba talaga ang plano niya para sa mga manggagawang naniniwala sa kanya [I hope he lays out what really are his plans for all the workers believing in him],” Tanjusay said.
Duterte is scheduled to deliver his Sona on July 24. To be continued