NEGRENSE workers marked Labor Day with separate protest actions in Bacolod City Monday, May 1 as they clamored for the fulfillment of President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign promise to end labor contractualization almost a year after he was elected into office.
They called on the President to increase the minimum wage and to stop “endo” or end of contract scheme, which is to hire workers for only six months and renew their contracts as to avoid employment regularization.
More than 1,500 rallyists from the province led by Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU)-Negros Occidental gathered at the public plaza while about 500 protesters organized by Sanlakas-Negros and Bukluran ang Manggagawang Pilipino held a rally at the Fountain of Justice.
KMU-Negros Occidental spokesperson Noly Rosales said the condition of the workers continues to worsen in this administration as he slammed Department Order (DO) 174 of the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) issued in March this year.
DO 174 prohibits labor-only contracting, or the practice of merely recruiting or supplying workers to perform a job or work for an employer.
It also limits “endo” through prohibition of continuous hiring of workers under a repeated contract of short duration by contractor and subcontractor like a manpower agency.
Rosales said the new scheme only strengthens contractualization.
If the President is really serious in helping the workers, he should push for the passage of the Regular Employment Bill at the Congress, he added.
During the rally at the public plaza, the group also burned an effigy of a puppet, a fighter jet, and a globe which represents “globalization.”
The Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) in Bacolod City also expressed their rejection of DO 174 in a press statement.
“Our demand today is for the President to draw up an executive order in line with the workers’ demand for total prohibition of agency-hiring and fixed-term employment and also to certify as an urgent administration measure House Bill 4444 (Mendoza, TUCP) and House Bill 556 (Bayan Muna, Anakpawis) which seek the same,” the group said.
“On the wage issue, the government should now consider granting workers substantial wage hikes in the face of mounting prices of basic commodities. At the same time, the proposed tripartite commission to review and revise the existing guidelines and rules on wage-setting should be formed immediately,” PM added.
Roland de la Cruz, vice president of Trade Union Congress of the Philippines and president of the National Congress of Unions in the Sugar Industry of the Philippines, asked the Dole to closely monitor the compliance of commercial establishments with the minimum wage.
De la Cruz said the labor agency should deputize trade unions to be labor inspectors to do the monitoring.
“The government lacks labor inspectors (even after) about 200 were hired by the government to do the job. Such job is also prone to corruption,” he added.
De la Cruz said that because of the lack of labor inspectors, the Dole has been encouraging employees to come to their office and complain.
New daily minimum wage rates in Negros Occidental range from P271.50 to P323.50.
It cannot be denied there are still employers who are non-compliant but their employees are keeping mum for fears of losing their jobs, De la Cruz said.
That’s why government monitoring is important, he added.
Duterte, in his Labor Day message, said that workers play a significant role in pushing for the rights to humane conditions at work, basic wages and organized acts, including collective bargaining and unionism.
“The government recognizes these basic rights of workers in all industries, and we are committed to protect and defend these rights,” he added.
About 200 labor leaders from the province met on Monday at the Dole Workers Livelihood Center in Bacolod City.
The assembly was organized by General Alliance of Workers Association, Democratic Association of Labor Organizations, National Congress of Unions in the Sugar Industry of the Philippines and Philippine Agricultural, Commercial, and Industrial Workers’ Union.
Wennie Sancho, Gawa secretary-general, said they are questioning DO 174, as it legitimizes labor contracting.
The groups also demanded for a raise on workers’ wages, he said. (With reports from Glazyl Y. Masculino and Teresa D. Ellera)