Why contractualization is bad for everyone, not just for workers

Insofar as freedom from destitution and insecurity enables or improves workers’ capacity or confidence to engage in politics, capitalists are therefore also depriving workers of the resources they could use to enhance their capacity to fight for their interests, resist exploitation, assert their democratic right to determine their own destinies, and build a different kind of society.

After all, workers who constantly worry about how they are going to feed their children or how they are going to pay rent are even less likely to have the time nor the drive to join workers’ groups, unions or political parties.

Workers who are constantly desperate to have their contracts renewed by their employers are likely to be even more fearful of antagonizing capitalists, let alone of engaging in political struggle.

Simply put, workers facing the axe are less likely to do anything that could make the employers remember their names.

And even if they were willing to fight for their rights, their ability to do so is even more constrained than usual since they are not even legally allowed to form or join unions as contractual workers.

And even if they did risk joining or forming workers’ groups, their ability to sustain these groups is also hindered since they typically aren’t allowed to stay long enough in the same firm or factory, and they are therefore also unable to form the lasting relationships with fellow workers that they need to enhance their political organization.

All these may be “good” for individual capitalists who want to crush unions or workers’ groups so they could keep their own workers’ wages low and increase their profits.

But this is bad for the larger society since strong, organized labor movements have proven to be a crucial precondition for advancing progressive social reforms which have proven to be beneficial to all – even to capitalists themselves.

Think, for example, of the 8-hour work day, social services such as public education, health care – or for that matter the right to regular and secure or non-contractual employment: all of these were won through the action of organized workers and all these have ended up actually saving capitalism from itself.

More importantly, however, weakening the labor movement is also bad for the larger society since strong, organized labor movements are necessary for the broader social transformations needed to create a better society – one that can save capitalists from themselves.

Not a just an economic but a political fight

Contrary to short-sighted business organizations, then, contractualization is actually bad not just for workers but for all Filipinos.

The question is: Why – after promising to immediately end this practice as soon as it assumes office – is the Duterte government still seeking a compromise with business groups which are unable to see, and which refuse to advance, the general interest?

Why – after promising to make a clean break from the ‘yellows’ and to crack down on the “oligarchy” – is the Duterte government shirking from ending a practice that was effectively encouraged by the previous administration and that benefits some of the country’s largest oligarchs?

Why, after nearly 100 days in office, is the Duterte government still just hemming and hawing and now championing a win-lose deal – a win for capital, a loss for workers – that has been rejected by even the more conservative labor federations in the country?

Why, in short, is the supposedly progressive Duterte government helping perpetrate a practice that is patently anti-worker and anti-Filipino? – Rappler.com

Herbert Docena is a PhD candidate in sociology at the University of California, Berkeley and a member of the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino.