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‘No compromise’ on ‘endo’?

“ENDO,” for “end of contract,” was one of the planks in the campaign platform of President Duterte, indication that the phenomenon of contractualization has graduated into a full-blown political issue.

Contractualization is now a common practice among employers, who offer new hires short-term (usually five months to avoid the six-month deadline for permanent employment) arrangements where, regardless of individual performance or merit, a worker is let go without enjoying separation pay, health insurance coverage, or any other perk of employment.

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In fact, “endo” became a common term for the party or blowout hosted by the worker who has been let go to say farewell to workmates. In many cases, the worker subjected to “endo” need only reapply to the same company, using a different name and fake personal details to gain temporary employment.

As pointed out by many experts, not only does “endo” lead to a sense of impermanence and insecurity among young workers, it also affects the quality of the work produced by these workers, as they feel no sense of loyalty or need to perform over and beyond what is expected of them. Only the employer “gains” in this arrangement, as it affords flexibility that allows the firm to reduce or increase the number of workers depending on market demand or financial shortcoming. But the workers end up moving from job to job, learning little, with little chance of improving their skills or enjoying more responsibility. Customers and the buying public are likewise shortchanged, as they must deal with frontline employees, especially in sales, who see nothing to gain from winning the customers’ goodwill or loyalty.

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WHEN then candidate Duterte declared that he was “not open to a compromise” on contractualization, saying it was “antipeople,” labor groups were overjoyed as they had long been agitating for a stop to the practice. In a statement, the Formal Labor and Migrant Workers Sectoral Council, part of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), said they found “a flicker of hope” since contractualization had become a mainstream issue even if there was little to show for the new administration’s commitment beyond a “motherhood statement.”

Even more concerns were raised when incoming Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III announced that he is preparing to issue a department order requiring all companies to “regularize” their employees on an “80 percent-20 percent arrangement.” This means that for every 10 employees hired, eight should be permanent while two would retain their nonregular status, “at risk, vulnerable and left unprotected,” the labor groups said.

What happened to the President’s declaration to end contractualization with no compromise?

The arrangement proposed by Bello, the labor groups said, “will only legitimize precarious employment. No matter how small the gap is… there is still space, a chance or window of opportunity for employers to strike and exploit it.”

The workers’ groups expressed fear that employers “will just abuse the proposed policy as they will circumvent it again and again, as done in the past.” Unless drastic action is taken, the workers’ groups said, contractualization “will likely continue especially with the proliferation of so-called manpower cooperatives where its workers, in the disguise of associate members, are being sold as cheap commodity.”

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THE “endo” arrangement, the workers point out, is a “form of modern-day slavery,” denying workers their rights to stable employment, a family living wage, safe working environment, social protection benefits, and “by and large, to form or join trade unions and participate in collective bargaining.” The arrangement, they assert, affects more than half of the total working population, mostly young and women workers.

In response to the labor secretary’s offer of a compromise on the issue, the groups propose the following measures:

First, “the premise should be clear to all parties that precarious work such as contractualization is antipeople and antiworker… as well as contrary to the policy of the state.” It should, they said, be eliminated rather than legitimized.

Second, the pending “security of tenure” bill should be made a priority measure, certified as urgent.

And lastly, “after the passage of new legislation, immediately hold a series of consultations with the labor sector for the issuance of entirely new implementing rules that will guarantee the security of tenure of all workers by monitoring and prosecuting the violators, individuals and establishments.” Such rules, they added, must include the direct participation of the labor sector in the inspectorate system like Task Force Valenzuela.

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THE NAPC workers’ council is composed of 26 labor organizations covering both the private and public sectors, including groups representing migrant workers.

It is one of 14 sectoral councils representing the “basic sectors” which, aside from labor,

also give voice to women, farmers and landless rural workers, artisanal fisher folk, urban poor, indigenous people, workers in the informal sector, children, youth and students, senior citizens, persons with disabilities, victims of disasters and calamities, nongovernment organizations and cooperatives.

Most recently, President Duterte appointed former Gabriela Party-list representative Liza Maza as chair of the NAPC, which was created to “strengthen and invigorate the partnerships between the national government and the basic sectors.”

Perhaps the first thing on Maza’s “to-do” list should be to coordinate with the labor department and other concerned agencies on fulfilling the President’s “no compromise” stance on the issue of contractualization, putting an end, with finality, on the practice of “endo.”

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TAGS: contracualization, Duterte, employment, end of contract, endo, jobs, opinion, Rodrigo Duterte, Unemployment
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