One of the most dreaded words among the working class Filipinos is “endo,” short for ‘end of contract,’ causing anxiety among those hired with no guarantee of passing the maximum six-month probation regardless of their level of efficiency as companies try to avoid the cost of regular employment.
This has been going on since the 1970s, even if the law clearly prohibited, as it still does, the practice of labor-only contracting, because employers have found loopholes in the Labor Code. And if we are to believe Senator Franklin Drilon, himself a Labor secretary during the term of then-President Corazon C. Aquino, endo is symptomatic of even greater problems in the system, including an oversupply of labor vis-à-vis the absence of labor opportunities.
The sad reality—at the same time a cause for joy—is that the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is only now reexamining the problem, given a fresh mandate from no less than the firebrand President Rodrigo Duterte.
Identified as priority sectors – read: notorious – guilty of endo and other illegal forms of labor contracting are hotels, manufacturers, shopping malls, restaurant chains, corporate farms and agricultural plantations.
That list from the DOLE came as no surprise. The real source of wonder is, how have the previous stewards of government allowed endo to go on for more than 40 years? A follow-up question would be: would the current reform campaign by the new administration involve penalties for the guilty parties, both in the private and government sectors?
Then again, do the incumbent Labor officials have the guts to go after erring companies, which for so long have exploited the loopholes in the law and taken advantage of desperate jobseekers while their businesses flourished?
Last week’s declaration by a DOLE official at a hearing by the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment, and Human Resources Development – that the government has been strictly enforcing compliance with labor standards and existing rules and regulations on contracting and sub-contracting – sounds like good news. But the last phrase, contracting and sub-contracting, indicates a still worrisome issue. A closer look at that statement would show the focus of the implementation of an existing law would be on labor contractors and sub-contractors, or the recruitment agencies used by employer companies in sourcing their contractual workers. That means companies that practice endo themselves may still go scott-free.
Unless the Labor Department hastens to clarify this matter, endo may prevail as a practice among unscrupulous employers and continue to spook the hundreds of thousands of helpless jobseekers now being hired as contractual workers by companies through their recruiters.
Companies that continue to trash the labor laws of this land must be reminded or warned: There is a time to sow and a time to reap. To those who have especially reaped a good amount of harvest, this is a time to give back.