LABOR groups and at least 300 workers from across Northern Mindanao staged a protest at the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) regional office Friday, February 3, in response to the President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent approval of the Department Order (DO) 168.

The DO 168 of Dole was proposed last year by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III which officially prohibits the “end-of-contract” or “endo” policy in companies.

But according to militant group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), the newly approved DO 168 will only burden the millions of workers in the country and will only worsen the situation of the workers as it does not totally ban contractualization.

The KMU said Dole's new DO would allow another illegal endo scheme and take a new form through “seasonal” and project-based employment.

“Dili si Pangulong Duterte o si Dole Secretary Bello ang makapawala sa kontraktwalisasyon. Konsumisyon ug dili solusyon ang ginahatag ni Bello sa mga mamumuo sama sa DO 168. Ma-regular na daw ang mga trabahante apan sa mga agency lamang ug dili sa mga principal na kumpanya. Mas mukaylap ang kontraktwalisasyon tungod ang mga balaod mismo ang magtugot niini (It’s not President Duterte or Dole Secretary Bello who can ban contractualization. Bello and the DO 168 gave the laborers grief and not the solution. Workers will be regularized only in the agencies but not in the principal companies. Instead, contractualization will spread more because of the law),” said KMU Chairperson Wildon Barros.

Laborers who worked in companies such as Agrotek, Tianli Export and Import Inc., Wilmar Edible Oil shared their experiences as exploited workers in their respective companies.

Efren, who worked for some time for a company in Bukidnon, said during the time when the endo policy was still in effect, his employers dismissed him without forewarning and without even giving a credible reason of his dismissal.

“I lost my job just like that. I refused to sign the papers that they were forcing me to sign and so, they demanded I end my service. Tell me, will this DO 168 do anything new for us?” he said.

Dole-Northern Mindanao Technical Support Services Division Chief Atheneus Vasallo said the militants were referring to the contracting-subcontracting agreement under the labor laws, which he admits, is still allowed by law.

Vasallo, however, clarified only those who practice legitimate contracting are allowed.

“Ang atong gatugotan ug naay strict implementation is kaning legitimate contracting, buot pasabot ana, naay kapital ug naa pud silay control and supervision sa ilang trabahante (We only allow and give strict implementation to legitimate contracting, meaning, they have capital, control and supervision of their workers),” Vasallo said.

Vasallo said allowing contracting contracting-subcontracting agreements has advantage for the employers as it promotes efficiency and productivity in operation.

“Naa man gud sad advantages sa contracting-subcontracting, first, ang management, dili na sila ang mag-supervise sa operation, ang ila nalang is to conduct business, ang ila is ang service provider na ang mag-guide sa mga tao, ang purpose is productivity and efficiency sa operation (Contracting-subcontracting also has its advantages. First, the management doesn’t have to supervise the operation; they only have to conduct business. The service provider will be the one to guide their workers. The purpose is productivity and efficiency of the operation),” he said.

“Ang disadvantage lang, para sa mga workers, is kung tan-awon walay security of tenure kay kung i-terminate ang service agreement, diretso sad sila mawad-an ug trabaho (The only disadvantage is that the workers won’t have security of tenure and if their service agreement will be terminated, they will be fired),” he added.

Arsenio Sebastian III, employer’s representative to the Regional Tripartite Wage and Productivity Board in Northern Mindanao, also said contracting has its own advantage for employers.

“For example, kung before Christmas, magka-increase ang volume sa tao (before Christmas, there will be an increase of clients) and the more the companies need to hire more people para maka-cover sa (in order to cover the) needs of the customers, but this setting man gud is not the everyday setting, but seasonal lang,” Sebastian said.

Sebastian also cited the construction companies and the agriculture sector, which he said, do not always need people every day.

“Kung nahuman na ang building pag-construct, dili napud kinanglan motrabaho ang tao (If the construction of the building is already finished, the workers wouldn’t need to work) of course, and just like the agriculture, there is a season for harvest, dili man everyday ka mag-harvest sa mga crops (it’s not every day you will harvest the crops),” Sebastian added.