IT IS mere coincidence that, in an election year, Labor Day is celebrated a few days before election day. But labor groups seem to have succeeded in using this as an opportunity to press candidates to include in their platforms of government labor-related issues. In the current presidential campaign, all the candidates--Jejomar Binay, Rodrigo Duterte, Grace Poe, Mar Roxas and Miriam Defensor-Santiago--are wooing the labor sector with pledges.
For this year’s Labor Day celebration, the workers’ main call, aside from the usual demand for pay hikes, is for government to end contractualization.
Contractualization, also referred to by workers as “endo” or end of contract, is the practice by some firms of hiring workers for less than six months, firing them and hiring them again under the same terms to evade the granting of benefits to the workers and skirt the Labor Code provision to regularize workers after six months of probationary employment.
Labor groups have claimed that in the past years, the practice of contractualization has become widespread even as workers’ wages have been depressed. No wonder that contractualization has become an election issue with all the presidential candidates, at one time or another during the campaign, vowing to end it. But politicians are prone to making promises they may not fulfill once elected, thus the need for a strong lobby to realize the vow.
There are admittedly loopholes in the Labor Code that employers are exploiting to increase profit at the expense of workers’ welfare, and the next president may indeed work to plug these. But the problem would still be implementation. How many employers, for example, have been punished for not implementing the minimum wage law?
The workers themselves must be conscious of their rights and must be prepared to advance these rights. The current Labor Code punishes employers who do not regularize their workers after six months of probationary employment yet there are those who remain contractuals for years without them filing a case against their employers.
Banning contractualization is a tricky act that requires action not only from the government and employers but also from labor groups and, more importantly, the individual employees.