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Huwebes, Disyembre 3, 2020

New Security of Tenure Bill Strengthens Contractualization, Worse Than Version Vetoed by Duterte

Press Release
3 December 2020


Socialist labor group Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) vehemently condemned the HoR's passage of HB 7036 on 3rd reading last December 1.

"Despite the addition of higher penalties and fines for erring employers, the new security of tenure bill rushed in the House of Representatives is no improvement from the version vetoed by President Duterte last year. In fact, it is much worse because it expands the scope of allowable fixed-term employment or endo, which now include OFW's and 'relievers' who are temporary replacements of absent regular employees," said BMP President Luke Espiritu.

SB 1826, which was vetoed by President Duterte last year, stipulated that all employees, except those under probationary, seasonal, or project employment, shall be deemed regular.

"Adding relievers as a legal type of bilateral fixed-term employment is prone to abuse and trickery. It provides a gap through which employers can sustain the practice of endo simply by fabricating the status of new hires as replacements. On the other hand, the unnecessary inclusion of OFW's under permissible fixed-term employment sends a signal to foreign countries that our government intends to increase exports of cheap and flexible labor," the labor lawyer added.

Modernizing contractualization

However, according to the group, the most reprehensible feature of the new bill is that, despite its attempt to establish firm strictures against labor-only contracting (like its previous versions), it preserves and strengthens the legal status of third party contractors, which they aver is the most prevalent form of contractualization in the country.

"The bill regulates, and therefore allows, the contracting out of jobs to manpower agencies and service cooperatives that act as middlemen/third parties between a principal company and the worker. In this trilateral work arrangement, workers are deemed direct employees of these job contractors, even though their labor-power is directly consumed and profited from by the principal company. All the work and responsibility of a regular worker in the principal company is afforded them except the status and benefits of being one," Espiritu bared.

The group elaborated that by sustaining the legal distinction between "legal" and "illegal" contracting (job contractor vs labor-only contractor) with clearer conditions and higher requirements, the bill only serves to retool and modernize the exploitative practices of manpower agencies and service cooperatives.

"These changes do not spell an end to contractualization. They merely seek to end primitive contractualization to pave the way for modern contractualization at a time when the third-party contractors can already afford to embrace modern means. HB 7036 virtually tells capitalists: 'you don't need to practice '5-5-5' to keep your workers' wages and bargaining power low. You can contract out their jobs to a middleman. But don't choose the cheap and generic contractors. Choose the slicker, more expensive ones.' HB 7036 dilutes the concept of security of tenure to compliance with these new 'minimum labor standards.'"

BMP has been consistent in its position of abolishing all forms of contractualization in lobbying for a security of tenure bill.

Attack against unions

The group expressed that the promulgation of the SOT bill in its current version would be another crippling blow to unions already struggling to survive the pandemic and recession.

"Mass lay-offs and repression, induced by the pandemic and the Anti-Terrow Law respectively, continue to jeopardize the ability of unions to organize, bargain, and sustain themselves. In its current form, HB 7036 will further undermine unionism because it will increase the ratio of contractuals deployed by manpower agencies to directly-hired regular workers," said Espiritu.

"Already we are seeing the number of agency workers increase as employers are using the current recession as an excuse to union-bust by terminating unionists and replacing them with contractuals. We call on the entire labor movement to organize and unite against the passage of a bill that will bring about the demise of unionism. Junk HB 7036! Abolish all forms of contractualization!" the labor leader exclaimed.##

For reference, please contact: Luke Espiritu

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