TAKING the cudgels for the more than 30 million contractual workers, President Rodrigo Duterte has agreed to hold a dialogue with organized labor groups over the contentious issue of work contracting.
Duterte had made a commitment during the campaign in last year’s elections to end contractualization within a few weeks of his assumption of office.
In compliance with the President’s directive, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) drafted new guidelines on contractualization but was strongly opposed by workers’ groups for being anti-labor, which prompted Duterte to reject it.
Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd on Tuesday disclosed that the dialogue would take place on February 27.
Bello expressed confidence that the meeting will result in a compromise between workers and employers’ groups in ending illegal contractualization practices.
Organized labor groups have been batting for a total ban on contractualization.
Bello said the DOLE is one with the objective of the workers but pointed out that it must be done in accordance with existing laws.
He called on labor and employers to keep an open mind and consider the possibility of finding a middle ground that would be mutually beneficial to all concerned.
Meanwhile, the DOLE chief also disclosed that the OFW Bank and ID system, both meant to benefit and ease the lives of overseas Filipino workers, will be operational this year.
“They will be launched this year. The OFW identification card system will be put in place in March while the OFW Bank will be operational by November,” Bello said.
The creation of OFW Bank is one of Duterte’s three promises to migrant Filipino workers during the presidential campaign.
The other two were to create a Department of OFW and to make mandatory for consul generals to keep track of all the Filipinos abroad and provide free airfare to abused overseas workers who want to go home.
The OFW Bank, according to Bello, is meant to cater to remittances and other banking needs of Filipino migrant workers all over the world.
He said the OFWs, would also become part owners of the bank through shares of stocks and have their own credit facilities.
The steady demand for OFWs workers remained a key driver to the growth of remittance inflows.
The OFW Bank was first conceptualized in 2006 during the administration of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo but never materialized.
In 2010, it was again brought up by then-Vice President Jejomar Binay in a formal letter to then-President Benigno Aquino 3rd but the central bank and the Department of Finance also shot it down, citing issues of cost, redundancy, administrative and regulatory unwieldiness and signals that discourage current private-sector competition.
On the other hand, the OFW ID system will lessen, if not eradicate, concerns on the authenticity of documents presented since the verification of the documents can be done online.
According to Bello, it is a major component of the Integrated DOLE System (iDOLE), which links the databases of DOLE with the databases of other government agencies such as the Department of Foreign Affairs, Social Security System, Commission on Higher Education and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
The ID card will also serve as a debit card and an ATM card for OFW banks as well as a Beep card for train systems Light Rail Transit 1, LRT 2 and Metro Rail Transit 3. WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL