Over 500,000 workers regularized as of 2019 – DOLE

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Tuesday, November 26, announced that around 564,000 workers have been regularized by employers as of 2019.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said 65% of those workers were regularized due to voluntary commitments of employers, while the rest were a result of compliance orders by the department.

"Dito nagpapakita na ang ating mga employers ay sumusunod na sa patakaran na gawing regular ang kanilang employee (This shows that employers are following the order to regularize their employees)," Bello told reporters in a press conference at the DOLE headquarters.

Though the accomplishment represents a 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 Philippines. Ending contractualization was 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.

Major blows: But setbacks to workers' rights this year do not only include the thousands who have yet to be regularized by employers. Workers' groups earlier decried Duterte's veto of the security of tenure (SOT) bill a day before it was scheduled to lapse into law in July.

Labor groups had slammed Duterte's decision, saying it only showed how he turned his back on workers to whom he promised to end contractualization. The groups had initially rejected the SOT bill but later on urged Duterte to sign it, saying that though it was a much watered-down version of what they wanted, the measure was still "better than nothing."

The veto was unexpected given how Duterte had certified the bill as urgent and asked Congress to pass it during his 2018 State of the Nation Address (SONA). In his 2019 SONA, however, Duterte made no mention of the matter, and told reporters after the speech that he was "still studying" the bill. (READ: TIMELINE: Duterte's promise to abolish endo)

Take two on the measure? Despite this, Bello said DOLE has submitted a new version of the bill to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea for approval.

Among the provisions DOLE seeks to address are contentious issues such as the definition of "labor-only contracting" and how to determine jobs considered directly related to employers' businesses.

Meanwhile, lawmakers and labor groups both questioned whether or not ending contractualization remains a priority of the Duterte administration.

More so, labor groups doubted the President's sincerity as he echoed major business organizations' concerns when he said that "businesses should be allowed to determine whether they should outsource certain activities or not." – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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