DOLE downplays layoff scenario
Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) - March 19, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - An official of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) shrugged off yesterday the Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines’ warning that Department Order No. 174 would lead to massive displacement of workers.

But aside from employers’ groups, more labor organizations have questioned DOLE’s new policy on contracting and subcontracting and urged President Duterte to reject it.

In a statement, DOLE Undersecretary Bernard Olalia noted the DO on contracting and subcontracting prohibits illegal agreements, including the “endo” or end of contract and “555” schemes wherein workers renew their contracts every five months.

Olalia maintained the DO would be stricter in the implementation of Articles 106 to 109 of the Labor Code banning all contractualization practices designed to circumvent the law and withhold workers’ rights.

“Their statement that many workers will lose jobs is an old story. They have been using that as an excuse even before. Sabi nga kapag ayaw, maraming dahilan,” he added.

On Friday, acting ECOP president Sergio Ortiz-Luis said the new DO would lead to many workers’ displacement.

Olalia said DOLE is now finalizing the guidelines on deputizing labor groups and other organizations to help in assessing the more than 90,000 establishments targeted this year.

“We are in the last phase of polishing the guidelines. We hope to issue (them) the soonest,” he added.

Under the guidelines, the labor groups and some government and non-government organizations, including those in the medical industry, will be deputized to assist the DOLE in inspecting establishments in their particular industry.

To ensure the effective implementation of the guidelines, the DOLE Labor Law Compliance Officers (LLCO) will still supervise the assessment of establishments.

Both sides unhappy

While employers are complaining, various labor organizations also assailed the new order, saying it is anti-worker as contractualization would continue to proliferate based on its provisions.

In separate statements yesterday, the Associated Labor Unions (ALU) and the Federation of Free Workers (FFW) joined those opposing the order, saying the DO defied Duterte’s promise to end short-term and agency-hired work arrangement.

 “We urge the President to reject DO 174 because it is a loss-loss situation for workers and a win-win formula in favor of employers and manpower service providers and cooperatives,” noted Alan Tanjusay, spokesperson for the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP).

Tanjusay added the DO would “perpetuate and further proliferate the existing unperturbed race to the bottom for millions of contractualized workers once it becomes operative two weeks from now.”

He said while the new DO is banning “labor-only job contracting, hiring for less than six months and repeated hiring of employees by employers, manpower service providers, cooperatives as well as in-house supply of workers… it spawns modern-day labor slavery and race to the bottom phenomenon.”

Employers and capitalists, he claimed, would now seek the lowest and bid out the cheapest job contracts they could get out of the wide pool of manpower labor contractors and manpower cooperatives market. Because of this, contractualized workers will end up with “low and unlawful wages and benefits.”

“Contractualized workers, though deemed as regular workers in the manpower service providers and cooperatives but have no relation with principal employers, are at the mercy of service providers and cooperatives. Workers will remain poor and forever trapped in meager pay and benefits and so vulnerable to fire hazard, dangerous workplaces,” he added.

On the other hand, principal employers and manpower service providers and cooperatives will become richer while workers and employees will become poorer.

For his part, FFW president Sonny Matula said the DO “is not enough to address the epidemic of contractualization in the workplace.”

Matula added they were “disappointed” with the DO but workers could invoke “defense of legal advantage” in the form of unions, among others.

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