Labor groups bolster call to end contractualization

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 27) — Different groups such as Kilusang Mayo Uno, NAGKAISA labor coalition, and the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) urge President Rodrigo Duterte to come up with an executive order (EO) that will boost labor standards and end any form of contractualization.

The NAPC Formal Labor and Migrant Workers Sectoral Council meet with the President en banc on May 15 to formally request the issuance of an executive order to end contractualization.

This follows Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello's passing of the Department Order (DO) 174 on March 16, which bans practices like labor-only contracting and outsourcing work due to a strike.

"While we oppose DO 174, ang tingin namin ay may mas mataas na kautusan na pwedeng lumabas dyan and that's the EO na pinu-push namin," said Edwin Bustillos, Sectoral Representative of the NAPC - Formal Labor and Migrant Workers Council.

[Translation: While we oppose DO 174, we believe a higher order can be enacted, which is the EO we are pushing for.]

The DO 174 bans employers from making their workers sign agreements like post-dated resignation letters and waivers for minimum wage and welfare benefits.

It also explicitly calls out the so-called "555" or "endo" schemes - the repeated hiring of workers on five-month contracts so employers don't need to regularize them on the sixth month.

All other practices designed to circumvent the law and withhold workers' rights are also banned.

However, even with Duterte's commitment to end contractualization, workers' organizations still feel the government has not been firm on solving this problem.

NAGKAISA said, with such an executive order, six million Filipinos will be lifted from extreme poverty, since they will receive benefits, security of tenure, and humane work conditions.

NAPC Secretary Liza Maza said removing contractualization would help alleviate poverty in the country, as contractual employees are usually underpaid and without any benefits.

"We can achieve full employment. We have to develop our [agriculture], our industry, at i-regular ang mga manggagawa (and regularize the workers)," Maza said.

Ending contractualization would benefit 1.37 million workers nationwide employed as contractual employees, according to the Philippine Statistic Authority (PSA).

Among them is Janina Hilario, who earned a minimum wage of P336 daily, or around P8,000 every month.

"Dalawa anak namin eh. Parehas nag-gagatas maliliit pa. Sasahod sya minimum eh hindi namam sapat. Pamasahe pa. Pagkain. Kulang," Hilario said.

[Translation: I have two children. They're still young and need milk. My husband also earns minimum, which isn't enough. We still have fare and food. It's not enough.]

"'Di mo alam kung matatanggal ka, kung ire-renew ka ulit…Parang yung asawa ko, contractual rin. Natanggal siya kasi six months lang. Apply siya sa iba eh hindi naman gaano kadali mag-apply sa iba, kasi medical na naman, requirements," she added.

[Translation: You don't know if you will be fired or renewed…My husband is also contactual. He was fired in just six months. He is applying for other jobs, but it isn't easy, because there's still medical and other requirements.]