MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has regularized at least 125,000 of 200,000 contractual workers it targeted to regularize in 2017.
The figure means DOLE closed the year achieving 62% of its 2017 target.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said Thursday, December 14, that this included about 75,000 workers who were up for regularization based on a year-end report from the Bureau of Working Conditions (BWC).
"The government is winning the war to eliminate labor-only contracting and other forms of illegal contracting arrangements. We are ending this year with more workers enjoying stable employment status through our intensified labor inspections and voluntary regularization of collaborating establishments" Bello said.
Though the accomplishment represents a big step forward in the effort to end contractualization much more needs to be done as there are an estimated 1.3 million contractual employees in the country. Ending contractualization is one of the campaign promises of President Rodrigo Duterte.
DOLE’s efforts against endo – the practice of continuously hiring a worker on a fixed term basis – has been through voluntary compliance of the employers and labor inspections.
To push the envelope further, DOLE would need to craft new plans.
“After December 31, we will assess and plan our new strategy,” said DOLE Undersecretary Joel Maglungsod, who handles the campaign. (READ: No 'endo' in 2017? Challenge of ending labor contractualization)
DOLE and major labor unions are set to meet with President Rodrigo Duterte this month to talk about the workers’ draft executive order seeking the prohibition of the illegal labor practice.
DOLE earlier issued Department Order 174, which imposed stricter rules on hiring through third-party agencies, but labor groups slammed this since it only regulates contractualization and does not abolish it.
In May, major labor groups Kilusang Mayo Uno and the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines joined forces to submit a draft EO to Duterte but it has not been acted upon.
Maglungsod earlier said the new EO to be presented to Duterte will reconcile the demands of the labor sector and the preferences of the President. (READ: Ending contractualization needs 2 urgent actions from Duterte)
“It seems there was a realization that it would be difficult to [impose complete prohibition] because there are seasonal workers,” said the labor official.
He also said there were adjustments to the bills filed in Congress seeking a security of tenure.
“Matingkad na [provision] sa Makabayan bloc, may criminalization. Pero iyong isa, sa TUCP (Trade Union Congress of the Philippines), total prohibition. Talagang nagkaroon sila ng...adjustment nang kaunti (A stark provision in the Makabayan bloc’s version is the provision on criminalization. But in the TUCP’s it is total prohibition. So they really had...some adjustments.)
In total, there were 31 anti-contractualization bills filed in Congress – 7 in the Senate and 24 in the House of Representatives – all pending at the committee level.
Endo in government
The fight against endo (end of contract) is not confined to the private sector. Workers in government who are under contract-based arrangements are also calling on the President to heed their call for regularization.
Out of the 2.4 million public sector employees, 592,162 are under job order (JO) contracts and contract of services (COS) or memorandum of agreement (MOA), and do not have job security and benefits.
The workers – many on the frontlines of government service – fear the proposal to rightsize the bureaucracy which would lead to the removal of redundant positions.
They are also against the joint circular issued by the Civil Service Commission, the Department of Budget and Management, and the Commission on Audit which provides that existing JO, COS/MOA workers will only be renewed until December 31, 2018. By the following year, they will be hired through manning agencies that win the government contract.
While several measures are pending in Congress, there has been no pronouncement on a massive drive to regularize these government employees.
An employees’ union has also sent a draft EO to Malacañang to push for the abolition of endo in government. – with reports from Sofia Tomacruz/Rappler.com