By Vanne Elaine Terrazola and Leslie Ann Aquino
In fulfillment of his campaign promise to end the pernicious illegal contractual practices in the work place, President Duterte has certified as urgent Senate Bill 1826 which is awaiting approval on second reading.
In his letter to Senate President Vicente Sotto III dated September 21, Duterte said passage of the bill would “strengthen workers’ security of tenure by prohibiting the prevalent practice of contractualization and labor-only contracting which continue to immerse our workers in a quagmire of poverty and underemployment.”
The House of Representatives had passed on third and final reading their version of the anti-contractualization bill last January.
“We laud the move of the President certifying our Security of Tenure Bill as a priority measure. It is important that we pass this into law to finally put an end to work schemes like ‘endo’ and labor-only contracting,” Senator Joel Villanueva, chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development and principal author of the measuresaid.
Villanueva said the Security of Tenure Bill, once signed into law, would amend and remove the ambiguities in the Labor Code, prohibit labor-only contracting, and provide penalties for its violation. The bill would likewise limit job contracting only to licensed and specialized services.
Labor-only contracting refers to an arrangement where a “principal agrees to engage the services of a contractor to perform or complete a specific job or work within a definite or predetermined period, regardless of whether such job or work is to be performed or completed within or outside the premises of the principal.”
Villanueva said the measure would meet the interests of the labor sector as well as the business sector.
Ending abusive work schemes, Villanueva added will also benefit the industries as it would make workers more productive.
“We certainly need a law that will not only uphold our workers’ basic labor rights and restore dignity of work, but also a law that will promote quality employment without jeopardizing business operations but rather create more stable jobs for every Filipino,” he said.
Nearing the goal
Labor groups welcomed the President’s move. Lawyer Sonny Matula, chairperson of the Nagkaisa! Labor Coalition, believes the certification brings them closer to their goal to end contractualization.
“We are near the goal. It’s closer than it has ever been, but we still have some work to do. The Senate has been given a directive to craft a law that will end Contractualization. We must see this through and ensure that the proposed measure shall address the weaknesses of existing laws on security of tenure,” he said in a statement.
“After more than two years, the Duterte administration has finally made a big step towards the fulfillment of a campaign promise,” added Matula, who is also the president of the Federation of Free Workers (FFW).
The Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) also lauded the move of President Duterte.
“By certifying the Security of Tenure or End Endo Act of 2018 as urgent, President Duterte gave the millions of Endo workers and their families a sense of hope amid all the rising inflation and political noise. We thought all the while Digong has forgotten his promise to end Endo to contractual workers who have been suffering in deep poverty because of this precarious short-term employment. There is still hope. We sincerely hope Mr. Duterte enact the SOT bill into law early next year,” said Michael Mendoza, ALU-TUCP National President.
ALU-TUCP National Executive Vice President Gerard Seno said certifying the “endo” bill as urgent is a big boost to workers’ productivity in the workplace.
“The news about his certification of the SOT bill is definitely a positive vibe to workers who have been lingering in low morale due to rising cost of living, long lines in MRT and LRT trains, floods, strenuous traffic congestion and falling wages. The moment the SOT bill is enacted into law, there is now a chance for contractual workers to be included in the country’s growing economic growth,” Seno said.
“President Duterte said he will never renege on his campaign promise to end contractualization. True to his word, he certified the Security of Tenure bill. We pray that it will be passed by Congress consistent with the Presidential promise instead of being watered down by the corporate vested interests which are overrepresented in Congress. Workers need an uplifting Christmas gift in the midst of their current struggles with the spirallingcoat of living and genuine hope for a far better 2019,” said TUCP Partylist Rep. Raymond Mendoza.
Gray areas exploited
Davao City 1st district Rep. KarloNograles reckoned that the measure’s enactment would benefit the country’s 40-million strong workforce as well as the college graduates who are poised to enter it.
“Our Constitution clearly provides protections for our workers. Article XIII, Section 3 says that the State shall afford full protection to labor, and it specifically says that our workers shall be entitled to security of tenure,” said Nograles.
“While the Labor Code is supposed to operationalize this provision, there are gray areas in the Labor Code that are exploited by employers; the Security of Tenure Bill should remedy this,” added Nograles, who served as Labor panel chairman in the previous 16th Congress.
“Our youth study for 16, 17 years to obtain their college degrees in the hope of securing stable, gainful employment. After all their hard work, ‘di makatarungan at masakit naman kung ang trabahong naghihintay para sa kanila ay puro 5-5-5 (it’s unfair and hurtful for them to settle for 5-5-5 jobs).”
The term “5-5-5” refers to the practice of giving employees five-month contracts, one month short of the six months that would require employers to regularize them. (With a report from Ellson A. Quismorio)