‘Time for change to come to the labor front’ - anti-poverty chief

Now is the time to end all forms of contractualization and other unfair labor practices and institute much-needed changes in the national labor situation to lift workers out of poverty, said National Anti-Poverty Commission Secretary Liza Maza.

At least 24.4 million workers in the Philippines are under “flexible labor schemes,” the secretary said, citing estimates by labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno and economic thinktank IBON Foundation.

Workers under flexible labor schemes include non-regular, agency-hired, informal sector, and unpaid family workers. “This translates to 63 percent of the entire labor force, or almost two out of three workers in the Philippines who have jobs that are precarious, have no benefits, and associated with exploitative working conditions,” said Maza.

“Contractualization and other unfair labor practices are bleeding our workers dry for profit and it is time for government to take a tougher stance,” said the secretary, noting that official figures show contractualization has worsened throughout the years.

For decades, there has been virtually no improvement in the percentage of Filipino employees in precarious work, said the anti-poverty chief. “From 1995 to 2016, official state figures show around 30 percent of employees in the country have short-term, seasonal, or casual jobs,” said Maza, citing statistics from the Philippine Statistics Authority’s Decent Work Statistics Report in November 2017.

Even these conservative estimates show that the magnitude of non-regular workers has also steadily increased, from 2.6 million in 1995 to 6.2 million in 2016, she added.

Unfortunately, labor groups have lamented that even Department Order 174 issued by the Department of Labor and Employment in 2017 as well as House Bill 6908 pending in Congress both do not resolve the problem of contractualization, said Maza.

“This is why the workers’ clamor for the president to sign an EO against contractualization remains clear and undiminished. I reaffirm my solidarity with our workers and in their call, knowing that an end to contractualization is only consistent with the administration’s platform of change,” the former women’s rights legislator said.

A few days before Labor Day last year, the NAPC was instrumental in facilitating a landmark unity among a broad coalition of labor groups calling for an end to ‘endo.’ The Commission’s Formal Labor and Migrant Workers Sectoral Council also forwarded to Malacanang a draft executive order against ‘endo,” a document also supported by the rest of the NAPC’s basic sectoral councils.

Aside from an EO that will end contractualization, to actualize full recognition of labor rights to workers, Maza enjoins the legislators to support House Bill 556 or an Act of Prohibiting the Practice of Labor Contractualization and Promoting Regular Employment. A decent job with labor benefits and livable wage is considered by the NAPC as one of the 10 Basic Needs.

“Giving workers their due is right and just. There is no proof that it will worsen unemployment or even cause the shutdown of businesses. It is high time that we carry the torch of economic nationalism and protect workers against oligarchs, big businesses, and foreign monopolies that have trapped our workers in poverty for decades,” said Maza.