All Senators’ bills fail to challenge contractualization
Below is the position paper on the Senate bills on contractualization and security of tenure of workers issued by the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino National Executive Committe on October 13, 2016:
The Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) welcomes various initiatives by lawmakers to address contractualization and other controversies regarding job security, in the form of legislative proposals to address a problem, which has long been branded by the organized labor movement as a scourge on labor rights and welfare.
But all the proposals, particularly Senate Bills 217 (Hontiveros), 174 (Aquino), 117 (Pimentel), 302 (Zubiri), 329 (Ejercito), 1061 (Poe), and 1116 (Villanueva), fail to address the legal basis for contractualization; no other than Articles 106 to 109 of the Labor Code, which pertains to contracting and subcontracting agreements.
As a workers’ organization, we are not composed of lawyers but of trade unionists who are day-to-day practitioners of laws on labor relations. But we all still know that provisions on job contracting undermine Article 280 of the said code, which states that regular employees are those who perform “usually necessary or desirable” in the normal operations of a business.
Articles 106 to 109 provides the loophole for the so-called “principals” in these trilateral agreements to use contractors and subcontractors that provide cheaper and more docile workers to carry out work that should be performed by their regular employees.
These provisions not only obfuscate employee-employer relationships. In the processes of union building, workers become victims of finger-pointing between principals and the labor agencies on who should negotiate with the newly-formed union regarding wages, benefits, and work conditions.
More so, these provisions reinforce the capitalist blackmail of “work or starve”, as the threat of unemployment constantly hovers, like Damocles’ sword, on contractual workers who could be fired anytime by simply terminating their employment contracts.
Contractualization, legalized by Articles 106 to 109 of the Labor Code, is tantamount to cheap and docile labor. It is a problem that affects millions, especially if we include the families who rely on casual workers for their daily sustenance and upkeep.
According to the May 2016 Labstat Updates of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), based on the 2013/2014 Integrated Survey on Labor and Employment, out of a total of 4.472 million workers in firms with twenty (20) or more employees, 1.336 million (29.87%) are non-regular workers. This data does not include those employed in small and micro establishments, which comprise more than 90% of employers in the country.
If the 1.336 million contractuals in large firms provide for the needs of a family of five, we have 6.68 million Filipinos who are affected by low wages and the lack of job security due to contractualization!
Hence, the BMP believes that only a bill that would repeal Articles 106 to 109 and the prohibit contracting of “usually necessary or desirable” work, pursuant to Article 280 of the Labor Code would actually begin to bring an end to contractualization. Employment of contractual labor, in order to depress wages and deny regular status to workers should be regarded as a criminal offense.
Such harsh penalties, as proposed, are guided by state policies enshrined in the Constitution. Labor, states Article 2, Section 18, is the “primary social economic force”. Because labor should enjoy primacy over non-human inputs in production and commerce, the charter orders the state to provide “FULL PROTECTION to labor” (Article 13, Section 3, emphasis ours).
The State should guarantee workers their immutable rights in the work place – a fitting tribute to their undervalued contribution to economic development. It is hence but appropriate to treat the deprivation of the workers’ due, their basic entitlements and social protection as criminal transgressions which must not be countenanced by the State.
Indeed, the State owes a ballooning social debt to workers who should, as a matter of Constitutional mandate, be entitled to living wage, participation in decision-making processes affecting their rights and benefits, unhampered self-organization, among others.
Hence, the BMP challenges Congress to tread the right direction, consistent with this mandate, by plugging the legal loopholes that permit contractualization and the further detriment of labor rights and welfare.
Ending contractualization, which has been declared as a policy by no less than President Rodrigo Roa Duterte himself, is a step in this rightful course.
End contractualization now!
Uphold the right of workers to security of tenure!