THE Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) targets to regularize 50 percent of all contractual laborers in the country by the end of 2016.

Dole 7 Director Exequiel Sarcauga, during a labor relations forum last Friday, said these were the marching orders from President Rodrigo Duterte.

Data from the Bureau of Working Conditions show that there are 5,150 regular contractors and subcontractors in the region, with 416,343 workers deployed to 26,194 principals as of May 2016, said Sarcauga.

“We will try (to end illegitimate contractualization). Because it’s an order, we cannot say no,” Sarcauga told reporters at the sidelines of the forum. He added that 100 percent of contractual laborers would have to be regularized by December 2017.

The information on stopping contractualization alarmed some members of the local business community, but Sarcauga pointed out that the mandate is limited to “illegitimate contracting,” since contractualization itself is allowed under the Labor Code and Dole’s Department Order 18-A.

According to Dole legal officer Roy Buenafe, there are two types of contracting: job contracting, which is permissible by law, and labor-only contracting, the illegal practice.

‘No need to worry’

Labor-only contracting happens when the contractor doesn’t have substantial capital or investment to actually perform the job, work, or service under its own actions and responsibility, said Buenafe. In addition, employees recruited, supplied or placed by such contractor are performing activities directly related to the main business of the principal.

“Dili mo dapat mahadlok kung wala mo nag practice og illegitimate contractualization. Kamo na mismo ang kahibalo kung gihimo na ninyo o wala (You have no reason to afraid if you do not practice illegitimate contractualization. You yourselves know whether or not you have done this),” Buenafe told a crowd of over a hundred business owners in Cebu.

Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industy (MCCI) past president Philip Tan pointed out that business owners should not fear Dole and instead comply with the law. Tan, the management sector’s representative to the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board, said no business can do nothing when there are no employees, and so employers should take good care of them as well.

Erring service providers, according to Sarcauga, will have their licenses revoked and workers of these establishments will become employees of the principal.

The practice of “endo”—or hiring workers on short-term contracts so they wouldn’t qualify for the benefits of regular employees—became one of the hottest issues in this year’s presidential campaign.