Still no end to ‘endo’
Then Davao mayor Rodrigo Duterte made a promise as far back as November 2015: He would end contractualization if elected president, and even challenged businessmen opposing his policy to campaign against him and ensure that he lost his bid. He won the presidential election the following year, but it took two years before the President signed an executive order supposedly putting an end to “endo” (end of contract). Under this illegal practice, companies hire employees under a fixed-term basis and continuously renew their contracts to avoid providing benefits that regular workers are entitled to.
Labor groups have roundly criticized Executive Order No. 51 for falling short of the mark, noting that it does not ban all forms of contractualization. They had wanted a section that not only explicitly prohibited all forms of contracting or subcontracting, but also made direct hiring the norm in employment, and not through third-party agencies. EO 51, they said, signed on Labor Day itself, was meant only to save face for the Duterte administration and appease workers chafing at the delay in fulfilling Mr. Duterte’s campaign promise.
Over the last two months since the EO was signed, contractual workers have launched strikes against private firms such as NutriAsia, Jollibee and other companies to protest illegal job termination, low wages and unsafe working conditions. These firms were among those ordered by the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) to regularize employees. But, the companies terminated their contracts with service agencies instead, leading to the mass layoff of workers. At least 200,000 workers have been fired, according to Rep. Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis party-list, citing data gathered by the Kilusang Mayo Uno.
Malacañang has thrown up its hands and said that the ball is now in Congress, where lawmakers need to amend the Labor Code, particularly its provisions on security of tenure. The House of Representatives, where the President enjoys supermajority support, has already approved on third reading a measure that seeks to amend the law to stop abusive forms of contractualization, while the Senate has yet to pass its own version.
What is ironic is this: Despite claims by Dole that it is winning the war against labor-only contracting and other forms of illegal contracting arrangements, the government itself turns out to be a major violator, with the number of its contractual workers increasing in the past two years.
A report in this paper on July 17 cited data from the Civil Service Commission (CSC) showing that, in 2017, more than 27 percent of the 2.4 million government workers—or 660,390—were “job order” (JO) or “contract of service” (COS) employees. Of the 120,000 new hires last year, nearly 55 percent, or 65,228, were taken in as JO or COS workers.
As Ferdinand Gaite, national president of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees, pointed out to Malacañang: “You should be the model. How can you enforce [laws against contractualization] if you yourself are violating [those laws]?”
CSC assistant commissioner Ariel Ronquillo’s defense is that it is not that simple for the government to regularize workers. In an interview on ANC in May, Ronquillo said civil service rules require that certain standards be met to be regularized, and that a law providing for the automatic regularization of contract and JO workers has to be passed first. Congress also needs to approve additional budget for salaries, allowances and other fringe benefits for regularized employees.
Will the Duterte administration lead by example and work for the passage of necessary laws to provide its own workers the security of tenure it has been demanding from private companies? The President’s message, after all, was as stark as could be just last May 1 when he signed EO 51: “I’ve warned you before and I’ll warn you again. Putlan tamog ulo dira… (I will chop off your heads.) Stop endo and illegal contractualization … The government will not rest until we end this shameful labor practice.”
He added: “To all noncompliant and abusive employers and their so-called ‘cabo’ who are engaged in labor contracting, your days are numbered.”
Are they? Malacañang should show the way by heeding that bidding in its own backyard.
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