Last Friday (April 7), we organized a picket at the very gates of Malacañang, going farther than the traditional protests at the foot of Mendiola Bridge, to ask President Duterte to issue an executive order that would scrap the latest Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) order on contracting, and subcontracting and enact a prohibition against contractualization.
Dozens of workers dared to pass through Palace security all over the San Miguel district of the City of Manila; in a defiant display of resolve against a more-than-two-decade scourge that has wreaked havoc to the rights and welfare of Philippine labor. It was also a desperate reminder to Duterte that his promise of “contractualization must stop” and his mandate of “change is coming” remain unfulfilled.
Ten months have passed in this populist administration that rode on the people’s disgust over neoliberal policies, such as contractualization. Yet, nothing has changed, especially in the sphere of employer-employee relations.
Workers are becoming restless. To the proletarian millions who voted him into power, the presidential rhetoric to end contractualization is turning out to be a mere Dutertean electoral gambit to win the presidency. No wonder his approval ratings at the surveys are falling!
Presidential Spokesman Ernie Abella is proclaiming the recent DOLE order (DO174) by Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III as the fulfillment of Duterte’s commitment to end contractualization, a scheme that the Chief Executive once described as “antipoor”. However, Bello’s DO174 runs counter to Duterte’s public position against contractualization.
It merely regulates, not prohibit, the contracting out of labor—even those that are “usually necessary or desirable” in the normal operations of a business. It also strengthens trilateral employment relationships, which has now dominated the workplace as opposed to the previous practices of direct hiring and regularization.
Bello may argue that DO174 is for regularization, because agency workers could now be regularized under their contractors and subcontractors. He even described it as a “win-win” solution to the problem. But what kind of tomfoolery is this?! Regular workers in entities that have temporary contracts with principal employers! It is not only a contradiction in terms. It is a unanimous approval of an antiworker scheme, which is patently designed to create a cheap and docile labor force!
Allow us to explain how parties in trilateral-employment schemes interrelate with each other:
Who needs labor? The so-called principal employers. They need the labor of workers to create goods and services that have higher value than its nonmaterial inputs (materials, depreciation). Labor created such value-added, from whence comes profit, rent, interest and taxes. They are the buyers of labor.
Who has labor? The property-less masses. They do not have any means of subsistence. They only have their brawn, brains, talents and skill. Because most of their needs and wants are commodities, they are in constant need for money. They sell their labor in exchange for wages to the propertied and moneyed few.
What is the role of contractors and subcontractors in the transaction between the buyer and seller of labor? Nothing but to be a rent-seeking leech! They act as a “middleman” between the two but pretend to be the employer of these workers. Their service is to provide cheap labor by denying seniority benefits for workers upon regular status with the “principal employers”. Their other purpose is to create a docile labor force that is perpetually terrorized by unemployment via termination of contract, a threat that hangs over their heads like the proverbial sword of Damocles.
Furthermore, Bello’s alibi that on the “legality” of trilateral-employment relationships is not only misleading but also unacceptably stupid. Duterte should remind his alter ego in the labor department that Article 106 does not only provide for the regulation of contracting and subcontracting schemes. It also gives to the labor secretary the choice to prohibit such schemes in order to protect the workers’ rights and welfare.
But since it is being made to appear that the hand does not do what the brain is telling it to do, with Secretary Bello unable to fulfill the presidential promise to end contractualization, it is but logical that an executive order be enacted to prohibit contractualization, in accordance to Article 106 of the Labor Code, and if there is an iota of sincerity and seriousness in the words of President Duterte.
We urge the readers of this good paper to join us in this reasonable and just demand.
Leody De Guzman
Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino
19 Mayaman Street, UP Teachers Village, Quezon City