As the debate on contractualization continues towards Labor Day, research group IBON stated that the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE)’s Department Order (DO) 174 is only an affirmation of the anti-worker practice of contractualization. Despite workers’ demand and President Duterte’s marching order to end all forms of contractualization, the DOLE’s promotion of the “win-win solution” proposed by the Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), which simply aims to regulate contractualization, will not stop violations of workers’ rights.
DO 174 lists prohibitions of various employers’ schemes that undermine workers’ right to security of tenure. These include farming out work to a “cabo” or non-regular proxy, contracting through agencies, repeating short-term hiring, and requiring workers to sign labor rights waiver documents. DO 174 also supposedly stresses on workers’ right to labor standards, self -organization, collective bargaining, and security of tenure thereby prohibiting labor only-contracting.
The new DO, however, simply updates the implementation of Article 106 of the Labor Code and rehashes most of the provisions stipulated in DO 18-A of 2011 which both merely seek to regulate contractualization. The amendments merely aim to increase contractors’ registration fee from Php25,000 to Php100,000; shorten the validity of the certificate of registration of contractors and subcontractors from three to two years; and increase substantial capital (needed capitalization) from Php3 million to Php5 million.
The DO also purportedly intends to ensure the regularization of workers upon hiring by third-party manpower agencies and granting them the same rights and benefits as regular employees, including the right to unionize. But rather than repealing existing laws on contracting and subcontracting, the DOLE ordered the strict implementation of these laws thereby affirming the practice of contractualizaton. To ensure this, it will create additional plantilla positions to fortify the existing pool of Labor Laws Compliance Officers, create regional inspection teams and review the enforcement framework of labor law standards.
IBON said that these measures only legitimize the removal of employer-employee relationship between outsourced employees and principal companies. The order absolves principal companies from directly giving the workers their due and leaves the task of respecting labor rights to the agencies. Workers’ rights to just wages and earned benefits and to form unions, negotiate for better work conditions, and to strike are also removed, observed IBON.
Workers seek an end to the prevalence of jobs that are insecure, low-paying, and lacking in benefits, through which capitalists reap profit. According to IBON, however, latest available data from June 2014 shows that one of three (34.5%) rank and file workers are non-regular. IBON also estimates that 63% or 24.4 million Filipinos are non-regular, agency-hired, informal sector or unpaid family workers who are in low-paying and insecure work with poor or no benefits as of 2016. This the new DO as well as the law that it extends do not address, IBON noted. The group underscored the need for more comprehensive economic reforms to end not only contractualization but the country’s cheap labor and anti-union policy that attract investors to do business at the expense of workers and their rights.