THE influential Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has called on President Rodrigo Duterte to take the moral high ground of defending Filipino workers against the exploitative and illegal end-of-contract and other labor contractualization practices of big businesses.
CBCP president and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas made the appeal in a pastoral letter amid conflict between the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and labor groups on the issue of contractualization, which the President wanted to abolish.
“We urge the President, his Cabinet and the legislature to be resolute in this respect and to side with those who have for so long labored under the exploitative conditions of contractualization,” the CBCP said.
The five-page pastoral letter “Our Country and our Faith” was released on November 22 after a meeting of the CBCP Permanent Council in Manila.
The letter dwelt on relevant socio-political issues besetting the country such as labor, poverty, pending legislative measures on family life and the government war on drugs.
In the same letter, the CBCP lauded Duterte’s effort to put a stop to contractualization but noted that its implementation is lenient to big establishments that employ thousands of employees, apparently referring to big shopping malls, among others.
The bishops said it is also aware of the business sector’s concern that a total ban on contractualization will supposedly slow down the economy.
The CBCP conceded that they do not have answers for such complicated issues but said taking up the cudgels for the oppressed and the exploited is morally right.
“There is no moral justification for the exploitation of the working Filipino, and for denying the laborer the benefits of permanent employment,” the bishops said.
Labor and Employment Secretary Silvstre Bello 3rd clarified earlier that when the President announced a total ban on endo (end of contract) and contractualization, he was only referring to “illegal contactualization” but not those allowed under existing laws and DOLE Department Order (DO) No.18-A.
Bello explained that a total ban on contractualization is not possible as there are legal activities that require contractual employment.
“We are not saying we are promoting contactualization. What we are saying is that a total ban is not really viable because under existing laws there are contractual relations [that]are allowed,” he said.
Bello pointed out that the law allows outsourcing of workers as in the case of security guards and seasonal and project-based employees.
He assured labor groups advocating for a total ban on contractualization that the DOLE would revisit DO No.18-A, which has become the mechanism to circumvent the law against contractualization.
Under DO 18-A, companies are required to regularize 80 percent of their employees and to keep 20 percent contractual.
The DOLE is set to issue anytime now a new policy on contractualization.
Started in 1989, contractualization, otherwise known as endo or “555” or contractualized work, is a work scheme whereby workers are hired by a principal employer through a contract forged with manpower service providers and contractors to meet increased production demand.
After five months or less, however, contractualized workers’ contracts are terminated and renewed for employers to avoid payment of the mandated minimum wage, social and health insurance benefits, leave credits and other wages and benefits that regular employees receive.