DOLE admits failure to end contractualization

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 4) — The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has admitted it failed to end contractualization within President Rodrigo Duterte's first year in office, pointing out the lack of manpower to do so.

"We've failed to regularize the contractuals as much as we wanted to," Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said in a Malacañang press briefing on Tuesday. He was supposed to discuss his department's achievements, but he said, "first let me tell you about what we failed to do."

Bello said it has been difficult for the government to monitor the compliance of all employers because it only has 500 officers to inspect over 900,000 business establishments nationwide.

"How can you expect 500 plus labor law inspectors to supervise and inspect almost a million business establishments in the country to see to it that they comply with all labor laws standards and benefits for our employees?" Bello said.

He said President Rodrigo Duterte has allowed DOLE to hire 200 more inspectors, but it needs 2,500 more.

The administration is determined to fulfill its promise, Bello said.

During the presidential campaign, then candidate Rodrigo Duterte promised to end contractualization within a week

Almost a year after, on March 16, DOLE issued Department Order No. 174, which bans labor-only contracting, outsourcing work due to a strike, and the so-called "555" or "endo." "Endo" is the practice of repeated hiring of workers on five-month contracts so employers don't need to regularize them on the sixth month.

Read: Rules on contractualization signed

"Definitely, endo is going to or has already ended. Why? Because management and employers realized that this is unlawful. And that it is unlawful for them to engage in endo," Bello said.

But the government earned criticisms from labor groups, who demanded an end to all forms of contractualization. Labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno  said the order only "legitimized contracting-out of labor through labor contracting agencies as a government employment policy."

Bello clarified that what Duterte meant by terminating contractualization was -- "No more unlawful, illegitimate contractualization."

"Because hindi mo maiwasan eh na [you can't avoid that] sometimes, you have to resort to a contractual arrangement," he said. Exceptions include project-based and seasonal hiring, he said.

As an example, Bello said, "'Pag nagtanim ka, kailangan mo 'yung planter, 'di ba? Pero pag-ani, hindi mo ma-hire 'yung planter na mag-ani  because he doesn't know anything about harvesting. All he know is he is planting. So you have to hire, for the season, a harvester."

Successes for OFWs

The labor chief also cited the department's accomplishments, including the establishment of 17 one-stop-shops for overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). Those trying to complete their requirements for working abroad do not need to travel from one government agency to another.

Bello also said a bank that serves OFWs only will be inaugurated by October.

He added DOLE is working on giving each OFW an identification card called iDOLE for free. This will replace the overseas employment certificates issued by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration. These may later be used as a passport, Bello said, but DOLE still has to coordinate with other government agencies, such as the Foreign Affairs Department and the Bureau of Immigration which is under the Department of Justice.

Read more: Labor department to launch new OFW ID to replace OECs

Bello said DOLE targets to create 12 million jobs by the end of Duterte's term.

"So ang final goal ng ating Presidente [So the President's final goal] is to get them (OFWs) all back by providing good jobs with good pay ," Bello said.

He said the government repatriated 6,000 undocumented OFWs in the Middle East, and targets to bring home 2,400 more this July.