Ending ‘endo’ to test Duterte vow to labor
LABOR problems waiting to test the mettle of President-elect Rody Duterte involve joblessness and low wages, plus ancillary issues that include “endo” (end of contract) or the contractualization of workers.
Duterte has promised an immediate and sweeping end to contractualization, a practice of some firms of hiring workers for less than six months, then replacing them before the end of the period to prevent their becoming regular.
Since they are not regular employees, or are merely assigned to the work place by outside labor contractors, the workers are denied overtime and holiday pay, 13th month pay, bonuses, social security and retirement benefits.
Duterte told employers: “I don’t care if you will get angry with me, but I am not open to a compromise. Contractualization must go. It is anti-people.” He promised businessmen, however, adequate protection if they cooperated.
If needed, he said, he would press the Congress to pass needed legislation: “I will call the Speaker and the Senate President. I will call the majority. I will tell them you pass this bill immediately. I need this during the first week of my administration.”
The Department of Labor and Employment reported that in 2011 more than 30.5 percent of wage workers were contractuals. These non-regular workers were either project-based, probationary, casuals, seasonal or apprentices or learners.
While the Labor Code bans labor-only contracting, the DOLE has renamed this as “job-contracting.” In 2012, some 44.1 percent of surveyed 26,253 establishments hired agency contract workers.
Company owners and managers prefer to hire contractuals to do the regular jobs of unionized workers, hence the dwindling number of organized workers. Or management shifts to hiring members of a religious sect that frowns on unionism.
• Workers pine for decent living wage
THE MINIMUM wage in Metro Manila of P481 plus the recent grant of a P10/day cost of living allowance is still not considered a living wage by most workers, 42 percent of whom even earn less than the mandated minimum wage.
In majority of the regions, workers earn less than the Metro Manila wage, as set by the regional wage boards in the Cordillera Autonomous Region, Regions I, II, IV-B, V, VIII, IX, XII, XIII and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.
While the poverty threshold is estimated at P461/day, six regions — Regions III, IV-A, VI, VII, X and XI — have wage grants set below P365/day.
Workers’ meager earnings are being eroded by high utility rates (the highest in Asia), extortionist income tax rates, graft and corruption, smuggling, high prices of food, medicine, health care and transportation.
The impoverishment of the middle class and the marginalization of the working class demand a drastic change in the system that has made Filipinos the new slaves not only in foreign lands, but also in their own country.
The reported 6.9-percent Gross Domestic Product growth rate in the first quarter is nothing to brag about, since the country has the highest unemployment rate in Asia, according to the research group Ibon Foundation.
Citing the January Labor Force survey, Ibon said unemployment is at 5.8 percent, while China has 4 percent, Vietnam 2.3 percent, Indonesia 5.5 percent, Malaysia 3.5 percent, and Thailand 1 percent. Underemployment in January was 19.7 percent, meaning 7.7 million workers were looking for additional work and income.
The situation is made worse by the 1.1 million additional working-age population recorded last January, while the labor force has only grown by less than half a million. Contractualization has aggravated the problem.
• Organized labor paints a dismal picture
REPORTS of leaders of organized labor confirm Ibon’s analytics.
Graphics sent by Kilusang Mayo Uno chair Elmer Labog on the situation of Filipino workers showed that:
• Only 41.34 percent of a labor force of 64.9 million workers (15 years old and above) are either employed or not. Some 38.7 million are considered employed, and 2.64 million unemployed.
• There are 7.2 million underemployed workers. Employed workers are persons who are reported either at work or with a job or business although not at work. Some 58 percent of the workers have jobs, but are not regular, agency-hired, with the informal sector, or are unpaid family workers.
• In 2012, according to International Labor Organization data cited by Labog, there were 5.59 million Filipino child workers, paid with food, or eking out a living for their indigent families.
Employed workers are being sucked into contractualization and the resulting emasculation of trade unions has weakened their leverage in collective negotiations.
• Anti-labor regulatory bias must end
ALTHOUGH law and policy mandate a bias for labor in resolving disputes, many workers lament that regulatory officials often connive with private business and venal union leaders to repress workers.
They blame this collusion for the prevalence of low wages, slavish work conditions, loss of security of tenure and to a large extent joblessness for those who are forced to resign due to “right sizing,” budgetary constraints, and violations of codes of discipline in the workplace.
Some 100,000 call center workers and thousands of others in other industries have been dismissed for various reasons, according to Labog.
In the hotel and restaurant sector, the situation is no different as contractualization has been embraced with alacrity by hotel owners and managers.
Benjamin Gache, leader of several hotel workers unions, said more and more contractuals under “endo” are replacing regular hotel and restaurant workers, to the detriment of legitimate unions.
Removing the labyrinthine laws, jurisprudence and issuances that have repressed labor will be a formidable test of the incoming Duterte administration.
All stakeholders must face the challenge of change – how to modify prejudices, policies and practices in the workplace to be able to raise the status of workers and recognize them as partners in economic development.