Lobbying for change
While workers around the world grapple with the looming possibility of robots and artificial intelligence taking over jobs that were labor intensive and considered menial by white collar employees, here in the Philippines the (mostly) militant labor groups are demanding for a substantial pay raise, confident that they won’t be replaced anytime soon.
Or so they think now, since the capital intensive machinery and facilities aren’t available in the country yet. In fact the country’s militant groups are demanding for the resignation of Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III for supposedly failing to end contractualization, a campaign promise made by President Rodrigo Duterte.
As of this writing, President Duterte has yet to sign an executive order to end contractualization or heed the demand of labor groups to fire Secretary Bello whom he considers a close ally.
The obvious answer for Bello’s failure to do lies in the fact that contractualization is allowed under the present Labor Code. Contractualization is allowed on the presumption that some companies cannot afford to hire long term employees due to limited resources.
That, plus the fact that some jobs are seasonal, allows the companies to hire casuals or contractuals which they admittedly abuse by renewing them without the tenure and security enjoyed by regular employees as well as other benefits.
Who doesn’t want better pay and security of tenure? Under the Labor Code, contractualization is prohibited if the employees are hired from part of the company’s core business or service.
Thus, they cannot keep hiring these employees once their contract is ending without promoting them to regular status. And the companies which are against ending contractualization have admitted that they have abused it and want the government to modify it so they can implement it on seasonal projects.
Unless the law is amended and the provision allowing contractualization is repealed, there is nothing much the labor groups or any employees union for that matter can do something about it unless they aggressively lobby it at Congress.
Or President Duterte does sign an executive order ending contractualization in which case the companies will ask for specifics.
The President’s order may not even be a sweeping end to contractualization and may only apply to conditions as stated in the existing Labor Code.
Still the President reportedly promised a “surprise” to employees ahead of today’s Labor Day observance, so anything can happen.
Until that comes to pass, the country’s labor groups will have to do more than just stage street rallies.
They should buckle down to work and lobby for sympathetic ears from lawmakers to change the status quo.
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