Saturday, April 13, 2024

May Day Issue on Contractualization

by Maria Franciss Nikole Elli | May 2, 2023

In celebration of the country’s backbone of workforce, challenges arise as the issue of contractualization emerges. While the journey of being part of the workforce is already tough, the challenges have just begun.

A lot has been said about ending contractualization among laborers, promising better labor conditions. Most of the time, this is one of the platforms set by running politicians in the national elections. In an article by Vice News, they defined contractualization as the process of hiring employees under a fixed-term contract. Usually, these contracts last up to five months at a time. 

This is because the Philippine Labor Code states that those who continue to work after a six-month probationary period must be regularized and thus be given benefits such as paid leaves, medical insurance, and security of tenure. This provision of the Philippine Labor Code was supposed to protect workers, however, companies learned to circumvent this by outsourcing contract workers from an agency to save money.

During the Duterte administration, he filed an Executive Order (EO) against contractualization. But labor groups said that the EO was not what they had negotiated with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to make direct hiring a norm. In another attempt, the Security of Tenure bill was certified as urgent to support the fight against contractualization but was later vetoed by the president the following year. He said that it would “place capital and management at an impossibly difficult predicament with adverse consequences to the Filipino workers in the long-term”.

The problem is glaring though, as data from August 2021 shows that there are 582,378 contractual workers or job order personnel out of the 2,337,802 government employees.This is the same institution that vows to end contractualization while still practicing the same.

Other attempts made by the House of Representatives in 2020 such as filing a Security of Tenure Act to amend the Labor Code of the Philippines, prohibiting fixed-term employment. However, it identifies specific exceptions namely overseas Filipino workers, workers on probation, relievers who are temporary replacements of absent regular employees with engagements not exceeding six months, project employees, and seasonal employees. This bill remains to be on its third and final reading.

All these give a picture not only on how employers circumvent the laws on labor and how the government finds ways to address these challenges but also, how it’s a web of dilemmas on whether who should take care of the workers – its employers? Or the government?

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