Labor groups: Draft order vs contractualization betrays dialogue with Duterte

MANILA, Philippines – Labor groups felt their dialogue with President Rodrigo Duterte was set aside by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), judging from the latest draft of the department order that aims to end the practice of labor contractualization.

"Parang hindi kami nag-usap. Parang wala kaming pinag-usapan sa Malacañang," said Nagkaisa spokesperson Rene Magtubo in a chance interview with reporters on Tuesday, March 7. (It's like we didn't talk. It's like we didn't talk about this in Malacañang.)

Nagkaisa, the biggest coalition of labor groups, is among those who attended the national Tripartite Industrial Peace Council (TIPC) where Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III presented the final draft of the awaited department order.

Tuesday's meeting was attended by DOLE officials, 17 representatives from the labor sector, and 9 representatives of the employers' group.

According to Magtubo and Nagkaisa chairman Michael Mendoza, there was no drastic change in the new draft when compared to previous drafts and the contested Department Order 18-A (DO 18-A). Labor groups criticize DO 18-A or the implementing guidelines of Articles 106 to 109 of the Labor Code of the Philippines – which legalizes agency hiring – as the root cause of contractualization.

They said that the final draft presented by Bello still contains the "win-win solution" proposed to accommodate the interests of the employer sector. Also carried over from the first draft is the compromise that orders agency workers – instead of main employers – to regularize their pool of workers.

"This does not go in accordance to our dialogue with the President," said Magtubo.

During the meeting with labor groups on February 27, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered Bello to craft a department order that would stop the illegal practice of labor contractualization.The President reiterated in the meeting that he does not favor agency hiring.

But Bello said the final draft is different from DO 18-A because they had removed the unlawful practices allowed in the order.

Labor Undersecretary Joel Maglungsod, who is among those who drafted the order, said they included provisions, such as prohibiting labor contracting for core functions of a company. They have also increased the substantial capital required of manpower agencies to be at least P5 million from the original P300,000.

Balancing interests

Despite these amendments, Bello said the labor groups do not approve of the proposed order because they want to follow a different framework. (READ: No 'endo' in 2017? Challenge of ending labor contractualization

"Instead of making it a general rule to allow contractualization and [regulate] the exceptions, they want the general position to prohibit [contractualization]," said Bello.

 

 

But he explained that this is not possible since the law allows contractual hiring and only prohibits hiring through scrupulous and fly-by-night agencies.

He stressed that Duterte already committed to certify as urgent the measure against contractualization that would accommodate the workers' plight to completely abolish all forms of time-bound hiring.

"In the meantime, there's a law which allows certain forms of contractualization. That is what we will implement," the labor chief said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Bello on Monday told women laborers protesting outside the department that he would release the directive on Tuesday.

But upon request of stakeholders, Bello postponed the release and gave both sectors 4 days (until Thursday, March 9) to reconcile.

The latest draft is the 5th revision of the department order, originally expected on December 28, 2016. – Rappler.com

Patty Pasion

Patty leads the Rappler+ membership program. She used to be a Rappler multimedia reporter who covered politics, labor, and development issues of vulnerable sectors.

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