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More contractual workers in gov’t

By: - Reporter / @jovicyeeINQ
/ 07:25 AM July 17, 2018

WORKERS’ PROTEST Members of labor groups condemn President Duterte’s not issuing an executive order to end contractualization during a Black Friday protest at Mabuhay Rotunda in Quezon City on April 20. —RICHARD A. REYES

(Editor’s Note: President Rodrigo Duterte will deliver his third State of the Nation Address (Sona) on July 23. The Inquirer looks back at promises he made in Sona 2016 and Sona 2017, and how he and his administration performed on those promises. We will also look at major issues that marked his two years in office in our #Sona2018 series.)

“The moment I assume the presidency, contractualization will stop.”

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But more than 800 days since President Rodrigo Duterte made this promise during the campaign, what has happened is the reverse: The number of contractual workers in the government has risen by more than 65,000.

In the private sector, thousands of workers remain contractuals, as employers continue to outsource staffing.

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And the “comfortable life” for every Filipino family that the Duterte administration has promised has remained a distant dream with raises in the minimum wage remaining loose change, the peso continuing to lose its value, and rising inflation keeping most basic goods out of ordinary people’s reach.

Contractuals in the gov’t

Data from the Civil Service Commission (CSC) showed that last year, more than 27 percent of the 2.4 million government workers, or 660,390, were “job order” (JO) or “contract of service” (COS) employees.

Of the almost 120,000 new hires last year, nearly 55 percent, or 65,228, were taken in as JO or COS workers.

In 2016, there were more than 595,000 JO or COS workers in the government.

Under CSC Joint Circular No. 1, issued last year, people could be hired as JO if the jobs are of “short duration and for a specific piece of work” such as “intermittent or emergency jobs” like clearing roads, canals and waterways of debris.

COS workers are hired to serve as “consultant[s], learning service provider[s] or technical expert[s] to undertake special project[s] or job[s] within a specific period.”

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The CSC made clear, however, that JO or COS workers “should not be made to perform functions which are part of the job description of existing regular employees.”

Fear of losing job

Despite this order, “Tom” told the Inquirer that over the last 11 years, he has been doing “all-around” work for a government office that initially hired him as a laborer. (Tom asked the Inquirer to withhold his identity for fear that speaking out may cost him his job.)

Apart from doing manual labor, Tom also takes photos and videos of events, as he has been absorbed as a staff member in the public information office.

When asked if he ever attempted to question the tasks given to him, he said he was afraid to do so, as he could lose his job.

He also fears not being able to land another job, as he has no college degree.

Ferdinand Gaite, national president of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage), said his group was concerned about the increasing number of JO and COS employees, who had no security of tenure and benefits.

Gaite said the administration could not expect the private sector to follow orders on regularization because the government itself employed thousands of contractual workers.

“You should be the model. How can you enforce [laws against contractualization] if you yourself are violating [those laws]?” he said.

Security of tenure law

According to the Department of Labor and Employment, labor-only contracting exists when the contractor merely “recruits, supplies or places workers to perform a job for a principal under employment arrangements designed to circumvent the right of workers to security of tenure.”

During this year’s Labor Day observance, the President asked Congress to pass legislation that would finally put an end to contractualization. He committed to certify the bill.

Earlier this year, the House of Representatives approved a security of tenure bill. The Senate, however, has yet to pass the counterpart measure.

Rene Magtubo, spokesperson for the Nagkaisa labor coalition, said Mr. Duterte should fulfill his promise of certifying the bill.

“Laws and regulations pertaining to labor contracting have no teeth [to deter] companies not complying with the [labor department] order to start with,” Magtubo said.

“Moreover, effecting final compliance order under present laws and regulations pertaining to labor contracting will require circuitous litigation process that is detrimental to affected workers but favorable to stubborn companies,” he said.

Rising inflation

In his first State of the Nation speech, Mr. Duterte said there must be “sufficient income for all Filipinos to meet the basic food and nonfood needs for their families.”

But his tax reform program, which included imposing an excise on oil and oil products starting January this year, drove inflation up, hitting a five-year high of 5.2 percent in June and making it more difficult for families to put food on the table.

Based on a study made by Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP), inflation had eroded the value of the daily average nominal wage of P330.47 nationwide to P208.38 as of April.

The group noted that this was way below the P1,400 estimate of the National Economic and Development Authority that a family of five needs daily to live decently.

“The current wage rates obviously continue to be inadequate of a living wage. Due to supervening conditions, President Duterte must take jurisdiction over the wage boards and, as the Chief Executive, determine and adjust the wage rates. At the same time, the government must help in improving the salary of workers by giving social safety net program,” ALU-TUCP spokesperson Alan Tanjusay said.

Currently, there are two pending bills in the House of Representatives that would raise the minimum wage to as much as P750.

Raises for police, soldiers

So far, only the police and the military have seen a significant wage increase under the Duterte administration. Under Joint Resolution No. 1, the entry level base pay of police, soldiers and other uniformed personnel increased from P14,834 to P29,668.

Though the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act implemented at the start of this year raised the ceiling for tax-exempt income, Gaite said “whatever gain that was achieved by reducing the taxes was taken over by the increase in the prices of basic goods and services.”

In the coming months, Gaite said the Duterte administration should work to show that not only police and soldiers were entitled to wage increases, warning that such apparent preference could lead to demoralization across job sectors.

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TAGS: contractual workers, contratualization, endo, labor-only contracting, Rodrigo Duterte, SONA 2018
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