Prob­lem of con­trac­tu­al­iza­tion

Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro - - Opinion -

PRES­I­DENT Ro­drigo Duterte’s pro­nounce­ment to put an end to the con­trac­tu­al­iza­tion of la­bor is a wel­come de­vel­op­ment in the la­bor front. For many years, the work­ers have been op­pressed and ex­ploited by un­scrupu­lous em­ploy­ers who de­prived the work­ers of se­cu­rity of ten­ure, just wages and ben­e­fits and so­cial se­cu­rity pro­tec­tion in times of con­tin­gency. Pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions sanc­tioned this prac­tice to the detri­ment of the toil­ing masses of work­ers.

Con­trac­tu­al­iza­tion of la­bor is the em­ployer’s method of re­plac­ing reg­u­lar work­ers with tem­po­rary em­ploy­ees who re­ceive lower wages with no or in­ad­e­quate ben­e­fits. It has evolved and as­sumed in dif­fer­ent names such as: con­trac­tu­als, trainees, ap­pren­tices, helpers, ca­su­als, piece-rates, agency-hired, projects em­ploy­ees, among oth­ers.

This type of work ar­range­ment is ex­pressly al­lowed under Dole Or­der No. 10 of 1997 or the Her­rera Bill for the pur­pose of giv­ing the busi­ness sec­tor a breather from se­vere eco­nomic cri­sis that be­set the coun­try at the time. But this priv­i­lege had been abused over time and made a con­ve­nient scape­goat to hire con­trac­tual em­ploy­ees than to main­tain a reg­u­lar work­force where em­ploy­ers can save on la­bor cost and gain more prof­its.

Ac­cord­ing to es­ti­mate, seven out of ten com­pa­nies are en­gaged in con­trac­tu­al­iza­tion. This move is re­sorted to in or­der to save la­bor cost of pro­duc­tion and pre­vent the reg­u­lar­iza­tion of work­ers. If this trend con­tin­ues, work­ers will wake up one day to find that there are no more reg­u­lars in their ranks.

What is more alarm­ing is that big play­ers are into this game.

The Philip­pine govern­ment, the big­gest sin­gle em­ployer, hires con­trac­tual em­ploy­ees through ser­vice bu­reaus to evade the law of at­tri­tion in hir­ing of em­ploy­ees. Under the cloak of le­gal niceties in or­der to evade the Civil Ser­vice law, it hires per­son­nel under such cat­e­gories as co-ter­mi­nus, ca­su­als, tem­po­rary ap­point­ments or job or­der em­ploy­ees.

In the 1990’s, the largest food and bev­er­age com­pany, San Miguel Cor­po­ra­tion (SMC), em­ployed about 39,000 work­ers but to­day is has only about 20,000 work­force and out of this fig­ure, there only about 1,000 reg­u­lar em­ploy­ees left. The rest, of course, are hired as con­trac­tual work­ers.

The coun­try’s flag car­rier, Philip­pine Air­line s (PAL), used to em­ploy about 12,700 em­ploy­ees in­clud­ing 450 pi­lots and 1,300 cabin crews in Jan­uary 2005. With the ter­mi­na­tion of about 7,700 ground crew even if the la­bor dis­pute has yet to be set­tled, the com­pany has only about 5,000 reg­u­lar work­force left.

SM, the coun­try’s big­gest chain of shop­ping malls, nine out of ten work­ers, ma­jor­ity of whom are salesladies who stand to at­tend cus­tomers the whole day’s shift, are hired as con­trac­tual em­ploy­ees through an agency or by a con­ces­sion­aire. And worse, th­ese con­trac­tual em­ploy­ees are not paid the min­i­mum wage as man­dated by law.

Con­trac­tu­al­iza­tion de­prived the work­ers of their con­sti­tu­tional right to form a union, bar­gain col­lec­tively and con­duct strikes as a weapon of last re­sort. As a result, the work­ers can­not or­ga­nize what with limited con­trac­tual pe­riod of em­ploy­ment. Also work­ers have no so­cial se­cu­rity cov­er­age, health care and other so­cial ben­e­fits.

Thus, Pres­i­dent Duterte’s bold re­solve to end la­bor con­trac­tu­al­iza­tion and pun­ish em­ploy­ers who con­tinue to prac­tice it will break the chain that shack­led the work­ers for many years.

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