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Labor groups decry DOLE order on contractualization

Militant labor groups Partido Manggagawa (PM) and Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) asserted that contractualization is still allowed and will continue to proliferate under the new Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) order named DO 174 issued on Mar. 16.

“News that DO 174 prohibits contractualization is fake!” said PM spokesperson Wilson Fortaleza “What prohibition? What total ban? DO 174 merely reiterates the bans already provided for in the old DO 18-A. Everything old is presented as new again.”

Fortaleza was referring to the order Labor Secretary Silvestre Belo III signed, which supposedly imposes a total ban on labor only contracting, strictly regulates lawful contractual arrangements and outlaws the end-of-contract scheme—a practice where workers are forced to renew their contracts every five months so employers can avoid hiring them as regular employees.

“Bello is acting like Pontius Pilate by passing the ball to Congress on prohibiting all forms of contractualization,” Fortaleza added. “The Labor Secretary is vested by Article 106 of the Labor Code with the power to prohibit or restrict labor contracting. Why does he not want exercise this authority to prohibit? Given the irreconcilable positions between employers and workers, why does he side with the capitalists?”

As noted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Belo said that he could not totally abolish contractualization because the law allowed some forms of the practice, adding that only the Congress could completely put an end to contractualization.

“This simply shows the lack of sincerity of the DOLE and the Duterte administration,” CTUHR executive director Daisy Arago said. “It is now clear to us that the promise to eradicate contractualization is a mere campaign promise which this administration is not planning to carry out.

Arago pointed out that DO 174 was no different from DO 18-A, an order issued by former President Benigno Aquino, with the former prohibiting 11 forms of contractual work, while allowing employers to continue hiring contractual workers.

“DO 18-A was issued in late 2011 in the wake of PALEA’s (Philippine Airlines Employees Association) resistance to the contractualization scheme at Philippine Airlines. Since DO 18-A merely regulated, not prohibited contractualization, the problem of endo (end of contract scheme) has gone from bad to worse over the past five years. With DO 18-A rehashed as DO 174, contractualization will only get worst in the years to come,” Fortaleza extrapolated.

He insisted that under DO 174, replacement of regular workers with contractual workers will continue, with agency rather direct hiring being the norm.

“Manpower agencies will remain as middlemen between principal employers and workers. As lifetime agency employees, the best workers can hope for is a minimum wage while principal employers reap the fruits of labor productivity,” added Fortaleza.