Business groups are now in full force defending the status quo by opposing the workers’ demand to reinstate direct hiring as the principal norm of employment in the country. The ECOP, PCCI, PMAP, foreign chambers of commerce and the DTI have now become riding-in-tandems raring to shoot down the momentum of the anti-endo campaign being waged by labor.
Business groups, in tandem with DTI, collectively argue that ending ‘endo’ will scare off investors. Our collective response to their deceptive argument: Only bad investors are scared of a regular workforce. Luring investors to invest because they can avail of contractual workers with no security of tenure, low wages and benefits is a policy of profit first before anything else. Labor groups will never submit to this kind of blackmail.
Labor's position that direct hiring be the norm with exemptions to such rule is a compromise that balances employers' arguments that certain jobs need flexibility. Such exemptions should be vetted by the Labor Secretary in consultation with the National Tripartite Council. The labor-drafted EO is a paradigm shift in that contracting out will not anymore be the sole prerogative of management but will instead be subject to tripartite consensus. In this way, the gross abuses of contractualization will be regulated and stopped.
But employers don't want any compromise formula to unli contractualization. They want to have their cake and eat it too. Thus their fairy tale-cum-horror stories about scared investors.
Investments come and go not because of rigid employment regulations as labor cost is but a small fraction of the over-all costs in producing goods and services. Studies show that rather investments come where there is economic and political stability in any country.
Evidently the DTI and employers group’s bottom line in rejecting the labor-drafted EO is the preservation of their unlimited exercise of prerogative, never mind if workers have their own fundamental freedoms to enjoy like the rights to security of tenure, collectively bargain, and to have a fair share in the product of their labor.
What they wanted to protect were not only their own businesses but also their favouredmiddlemen in manning agencies and labor cooperatives. Herein lays the main contradiction – either direct hiring or hiring through a middleman. The former is a bilateral form of employment, the later is trilateral. Resolving this structural injustice is what workers had been fighting for in the last two decades.
As a recognized and legitimized exercise of business prerogative during the last two or three decades, contractualization has effectively undermined workers’ rights to security of tenure, freedom of association, to bargain collectively with their employer to improve their working conditions, and to raise their standards of living. This is because as a system, it allowed the capitalists and their favoured ‘middlemen’ to conduct the most immoral of all trades in modern times -- labor contracting.
Contractualization can therefore be considered as modern slavery, with employers and their middlemen facilitating the modern trade of labor power analogous to ancient forms of slavery. Today’s middlemen - represented by manpower agencies, service providers and labor cooperatives - profit from trading workers to client employers, typically for a commission or agency fee. This is true in the sense that a middleman’s only business is to make profit from another’s labor.
Data from the DOLE in August 2016 provides that there are more than 400 thousand workers dispatched by more or less 5,000 registered labor contractors to principal employers. Most if not all of the more than 400 thousand workers were neither unionized nor covered by collective bargaining agreements. The most recent survey revealed that more than 50% of registered small, medium and large companies employ contractual workers.
The principal employers and their middlemen, in other words, are in the same business of extracting profit from contractual workers with the former enjoying reduced labor cost by paying workers the barest minimum per day while the latter get their respective commissions per head from that trading transaction. If this is not an immoral, exploitative trading arrangement, then what is it?
Furthermore, middlemen serve as walls or physical barriers to the workers’ full exercise of their constitutional rights, including the right to form unions so they can directly and collectively negotiate improvements in their working conditions with their principal employers. This is because direct responsibility as a consequence of direct hiring is effectively lost the moment employers are allowed to contract out or outsource jobs usually performed by regular workers. Hence, when third parties or middlemen demolished the essence of that bilateral wedlock, job losses and children of endo emerged in many forms such as the 5-5-5, kabo system, outsourcing, and several other schemes of job/service contracting.
Ending endo is justice
Labor groups have gone too far in negotiating with the government for a policy that would promote and protect their rights and welfare guaranteed under the constitution and international conventions. It’s about time that on this class issue, the Chief Executive exercises his political judgement in favour of the workers rather than preserve the status quo being enjoyed to the max by the capitalists.
Failing to do so would openly expose the class bias of this administration. The recent survey has already shown that the level of satisfaction of class D & E for this administration is on a decline.
April 18, 2018