The workers’ campaign against contractualization

By ALDWIN QUITASOL
www.nordis.net

“… It is shameful and inhuman, however, to use men as things for gain and to put no more value on them than what they are worth in muscle and energy. … But, in general, the rich and employers should remember that no laws, either human or divine, permit them for their own profit to oppress the needy and the wretched or to seek gain from anothers’ want.” — Pope Leo XIII

Contractualization, is a labor hiring scheme invented in favor of capital and the capitalists to ensure their continuous raking-in of profit. Being a contractual worker is like being a disposable item that can be thrown away when it is no longer useful or something that can always be replaced whenever the owners want to.

A contractual worker is not like the regular worker because his existence in the workplace is only temporary and depends on the contract he or she signed, in many cases, the employers dictate the continuity of their work. In the contractualization world, a contractual worker will be employed for a period that lasts only for three to five months or maybe until six months. In many cases, he is terminated from his job before six months is up. This is for the capitalist to avoid the provision in the labor code requiring the regularization of a worker when he has rendered services/labor for over five months or six months.

If employers decide to maintain their contractual employees they simply rehire them but under a new or another contract. The general pattern is that an employer rehires the worker after a few months interval only to prevent the worker from accumulating 180 day continuous work and thus be eligible to become a regular worker.

Obviously, contractualization shaves off and cuts down labor standards won by the long and often bloody struggle of workers.

There are four distinctive features of contractualization in the Philippines.

First, many contractuals do most of the jobs of regulars. As defined by law, a regular or permanent worker performs necessary jobs and duties that help run the major operations of a company or a factory. So if a contractual works like a regular but remains on contractual status, he is being exploited and robbed by his employer of wages and benefits due to a regular.

Second, a contractual can be directly hired or agency-hired. In direct hiring, an employer employs in his or his company’s name a contractual. Agency hiring, on the other hand, allows a labor-only contracting scheme where capitalists do not recognize an “employer-employee” relationship with their workers, and rely on the hiring agency to deal with workers’ problems.

Third, the employer can invoke his status as only a sub-contractor or a concessionaire who entered into a contract to produce or sell products for a certain company. In this situation, he can hire contractuals on a daily basis, or piece workers on a per-job-order basis.

Fourth, many contractuals work over six months, up to several straight years, thus making them “permanent casuals”. This arrangement is common among private companies and in government agencies.

The organizers of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) Cordillera and the Organisasyon dagiti Nakukurapay nga Umili ti Syudad (Ornus) have talked to contractual workers in Baguio. From the data and information they gathered, many of the contractual workers in Baguio come from the neighboring provinces and regions. Some of them also come from as far away as the Visayas and Mindanao.

Almost all of them were employed in department stores in the city at one time or another. They said that whenever their contract is nearing its end, they start looking for a next job to apply for and so on until they get around to their first employers and then start another cycle of working for short contracts from one establishment to the next.

According to Ornus Secretary General Daisy Bagni, contractual workers outnumber the regular ones in the city of Baguio. She said that in a department store in the city, all its workers are contractuals. And aside from being temporary workers she explained, they are receive very low salaries even if they worked for long hours.

The workers in the department stores are required to work from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM. They have four hours of overtime work. And the minimum wage in the City for non-agricultural workers is P280, yet the salesladies receive only P200, the baggers receive P210 and the stockers receive P230.

The Baguio Export Processing Zone hosts around 20 companies mostly owned by foreigners. All of them hire contractual workers. The number of contractuals is more than two times the number of regular workers. In the mining areas in the Cordillera particularly in the province of Benguet, Benguet Corporation declared it will be terminating more than 200 of its regular miners because of financial difficulties. Yet, according to KMU Cordillera Regional Spokesperson Vicente Dilem, while the company keeps announcing losses, it continues to employ the services of subcontracting companies which he said are believed to be partly owned by the BC. He said this only shows why the company prefers contractual workers over regular workers, to lessen its labor costs and boost its profit-raking activities and avoid having to deal with organized unions.

According to KMU, contractual workers now largely out number the regular workers in the country’s service, manufacturing, agricultural sectors, and even in government offices.

The Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage) National President Ferdinand Gaite in a previous interview said the government itself promotes such scheme also by employing job orders and by outsourcing.

Gaite said that there are employees in the government that actually have no security of tenure. He said that there are many job-order employees in the different government agencies and departments doing the jobs of regular government employees.

He said that as job orders, they do not receive salaries like regular employees do for the same workload. He also said that like the contractuals in the private sectors who have no Social Security System (SSS) insurance, the job order employees do not also get to enlist with the Government Security Insurance System (GSIS) nor receive other mandated benefits.

KMU national President Elmer Labog in his previous statements consistently criticized the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the government itself for promoting the contractualization scheme. He said that contractualization is essentially an attack on the right of workers and the people to a living wage, to job security and to exercise trade-union rights. Any form of protection in that kind of employment status will not be enough.

He stressed that only unionization and regularization will protect contractuals.

The workers both in government and the private with KMU and Courage are rallying under the banner of the AllWorkers’ Unity to drumbeat the campaign to ban contractualization in the country and at the same time push for a national monthly minimum wage of P16,000 across the board. # nordis.net

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