Still waiting for end to ‘endo’
Are Filipino workers living better lives now under the Duterte administration? Unfortunately, for many workers who are still contractuals, prospects remain bleak. The erosion of their fundamental rights at work, particularly the right to security of tenure, the right to organize and bargain collectively, and the right to participate in decision-making processes, remains fundamentally unchanged.
Department Order (DO) No. 174 issued by the Department of Labor and Employment did not end “endo.” Under the new DO, manpower agencies, job contractors and subcontractors, and service cooperatives which play the role of “middlemen” are still permitted to operate. This will maintain the present practice of indirect employment and trilateral relationship among workers, their contractor, and the principal to whose factories, offices, plantations and malls these workers are deployed.
The insecure nature of employment of the contractor’s workers, which is dependent on the service agreement between an agency and a principal, will keep the workers from exercising their rights to organize and collectively bargain for higher pay, better benefits and good working conditions. Effectively, this translates to the increasing disempowerment of workers, and their consequent social marginalization.
It is all about power. With the continuous decline of organized labor with collective bargaining agreement coverage, the majority of workers, nonunionized, not covered by collective bargaining agreements, poor and without political power, with no leverage and access to policymakers, are relegated to the sidelines, away from substantive political participation and the policymaking processes of the government. This situation perpetuates the near-total political control of the oligarchic class, particularly of Congress, the Cabinet, and other institutions.
The political consequence is an existing asymmetrical power relationship between capital and labor that has become more and more unequal in favor of capital, particularly in the last three decades since Edsa I, which is the root cause of increasing social inequality in our country. The economic consequence of “endo” is a heavy wealth concentration in the hands of a few while millions of contractuals remain poor.
With the inflation rate at an all-time high, those “endo” workers who do not receive even the mandated minimum wages and social benefits are even in a worse situation as they cannot buy the minimum amount of goods and services that they need for their survival.
Nowadays, it is a fact of life that mere employment is not sufficient for people to wrench free from poverty. Most contractual workers live in communities that are the very antithesis of decent living. They can only afford poor housing, often in areas that are also socially and geologically precarious. The quality of their lives remains poor. With the enactment and implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion law and the subsequent increases in prices, poor contractuals will be even poorer.
Ideally, President Duterte could have led the fight and can still take the lead for labor-sector reform. Workers are still hoping that he will keep his promise to finally end “endo” and to strengthen the workers’ right to security of tenure, right to organize and collectively bargain, right to strike, and right to meaningfully influence and participate in the policymaking processes of the state.
The President must use his considerable political capital now to institute and implement major and drastic labor, social and economic reforms to address the roots of discontent in our society.
Vicente C. Camilon Jr. is assistant gene-ral secretary and spokesperson of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines.
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