Tag Archives: Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)

SENTRO calls on Working People to Sustain the Call to End Contractualization, Stop Authoritarian Policies

Photo by RBanares

MANILA, Philippines (May 1, 2017) – The national labor center Sentro ng Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Center for United and Progressive Workers), or SENTRO, calls on the working people to continue the struggle against contractualization and the precariousness of living, “sustained by the Duterte’s regime biased for the elite.”

In a rally this morning in conjunction with the 130thglobal Labor Day commemoration, the 100,000-strong SENTRO criticized the “fake news” that contractualization is over. According to SENTRO Secretary General Josua Mata, “We gave Pres. Duterte the benefit of the doubt on his promise to end the oppressive policy of labor contractualization, in hoping that Pres. Duterte will dismantle and replace the much-criticized Department Order No. 18-A.” He said their hopes were met with grim disillusionment with Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello’s release of DO No. 174 last March 19, 2017.

Mata stated that DO 174 will perpetuate contractualization by: a) allowing businesses to hire workers through agencies; b) allowing cooperatives to engage in labor contracting and subcontracting; c) no longer requiring the principal employer to provide unions a copy of the service contract; and d) allowing contracting agencies to further downplay the price of labor costs—guaranteeing even lower salaries and benefits for workers across industries. “Clearly, DO 174 widely differs from what Pres. Duterte has promised,” said Mata.

SENTRO assailed the President from being only true to its promise to kill, and to bury the late dictator Marcos at the Heroes Cemetery. In a statement, SENTRO noted that in almost 365 days in Malacañang, the President’s hands are bloodied in calling on the police, and later jobless migrant workers to kill drug users. However, it failed to deliver genuine resolution of the drug problem as it allows the escape of drug traffickers like Peter Lim.

SENTRO marched from Welcome Rotonda and converged with the 10,000 marchers of NAGKAISA Coalition to push Pres. Duterte to prioritize the prohibition of all forms of contractualization by supplanting DO 174 with an Executive Order and by certifying as urgent the passage of HB4444.

Allies from human rights groups such as iDEFEND, the World March of Women, and students marched with the workers to call on all “freedom-loving Filipinos to stand up and be counted in the fight for regular and sustainable jobs, to stop the killings, block Duterte’s Death Policies – the reimposition of the death penalty and the lowering of the age of criminality – and to resist moves to amend the constitution to institute “constitutional authoritarianism.” The march followed a coffin with a chick on top, a derivation from a Filipino custom, hoping that the deaths will stop immediately.

“Let us assert our basic right to a dignified and genuinely safe society—not the selective security of the privileged that preys on the massacre of the poor,” added Mata.

NAGKAISA denounces misrepresentation of Ruben Torres and Usec Say on worker-DOLE consensus that contractualization cannot be prohibited

File photo

NAGKAISA, including the legitimate TUCP President Raymond Mendoza, a co-convenor of NAGKAISA and the author of HB No.4444 which will prohibit and criminalize contractualization, denounce in clear, categorical terms the underhanded attempt of Mr. Ruben Torres and apparently, DOLE Undersecretary Say, to misrepresent to media after the dialogue with Secretary Bello last Thursday, that a consensus was reached with labor leaders that contractualization is inevitable.

That is the very opposite of what legitimate labor federations under NAGKAISA, who constituted 90% of the groups meeting Sec. Bello last Thursday manifested jointly to the Secretary: That we rely on the Presidential promise to end contractualization, and that we look towards an Executive Order to proscribe it in the meantime and towards passage of a Presidentially-certified bill (in the guise of HB No.4444) which will end contractualization).

NAGKAISA is shocked and dismayed that news reports of the Worker-DOLE dialogue on how to end and prohibit contractualization are now being presented as a trade union-government lovefest where both sides reached the same conclusion: that contractualization is here to stay.

Their action constitutes the highest form of betrayal to workers who only want a fair deal. Ruben Torres’ acceptance of the continuation of contractualization for janitors, security guards and salesgirls is craven opportunism of the worst kind, sacrificing the lives of the poorest workers while invoking the name of trade unions for personal advancement. He clearly does not represent the true majority interest of labor.

Our true collective position remains firm: that contractualization is oppression of workers’ rights which allows employers to avoid giving workers a living wage and to deny them a decent life. This is the very reason that we requested that Sec. Bello work out our request for an audience with the President.

Furthermore, the seemingly coordinated statements of former Labor Secretary Ruben Torres, now resurrected and posing as a labor leader of a rump-group TUCP ( the DOLE itself has ruled with finality that his purported federation is not even a part of TUCP, and by that very logic Mr. Torres IS NOT EVEN A MEMBER of TUCP) and apparent partnering of DOLE Undersecretary Say, show the moral depravity that the enemies of workers will stoop to.

We will not allow this underhanded misrepresentation of our position to remain uncorrected. Mr. Torres and his co-horts the Eric Gutierrez-backed Roland de la Cruz , last seen, after their gleeful endorsement of the Presidential bid of Mar Roxas, are now trying to make themselves relevant as apologists of the unbridled free-market, labor-flexibilization schemes which the employers prefer as their justification to abuse the Filipino working class.

Mr. Torres is no way a part of the legitimate TUCP, nor of the larger workers movement. Media coverage would have it appear through their interviews that the meeting last Thursday at the DOLE between workers and top DOLE officials led by Secretary Bello was a veritable lovefest. What happened was the DOLE announced that they would have to go to the drawing board to do a new Department Order on contractualization NAGKAISA only reminded the DOLE that what they will craft, and the bill which we should ask be certified, live up to President Duterte’s promise: END IT! STOP IT!

Nagkaisa statement on Dialogue with DOLE

The NAGKAISA labor coalition spoiled the premature celebrations of employers and contractors over reports that a new DOLE Department Order 168 was issued over the New Year which NAGKAISA feels essentially was a product of the proposed “win-win” solution proposed by DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez.

NAGKAISA had launched mass actions and an appeal to President Duterte, to signal opposition to draft department orders circulating which apparently would allow an army of non-regular, contractor deployed “seasonal” & “project” workers to supplant the despised “endo” system of contractualization. President Duterte had made a campaign commitment to end contractualization which he reiterated in his year-end interview with media. NAGKAISA warned that the supposed DO would perpetuate the contractualization policy that the President promised would be stopped

Today DOLE senior officials led by Sec. Silvestre Bello announced to the convenors of the NAGKAISA that there is no Department Order. Bello said that he was willing to listen to the workers comments to craft a fresh DO. Bello directed all his Undersecretaries to come out with separate drafts and that this would then be consolidated by the DOLE to a version on January 13, which will be referred to the NATIONAL TRIPARTITE INDUSTRIAL PEACE COUNCIL. This will be subjected to Tripartite consultations and will be issued as DO 1, series of 2017 when approved.

NAGKAISA formally requested Sec. Bello to set up an audience with President Duterte where workers will appeal for passage of an Executive Order which will serve as a stop-gap measure to proscribe contractualization until a new law amending the Labor Code is passed. NAGKAISA further requested that the President certify as an urgent Administration measure House Bill no. 4444 “WORKERS BILL STRENGTHENING SECURITY OF TENURE” (Rep. Raymond Mendoza, TUCP Partylist). HB 4444 will prohibit all forms of short term employment contracts and criminalize it.

The alleged “Win-Win Solution” to Endo is an absolute farce

End Contractualization

File photo

The so-called “Win-Win Solution” now being peddled by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is nothing but a farce!

This is the response of the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) to the claims of DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez in a briefing last Friday, 17 September 2016. The secretary reportedly said that a way to solve the problem is through outsourcing wherein a company taps a service provider or an agency for the supply of workers on a project basis. The service provider would hire the workers as regular employees.

The problem is, even if service providers hire employees as regular workers, their employment would continue to remain precariously dependent on the whims of the principal employer who, at any time, could decide to change service providers.

“It is obviously a win-win for the unscrupulous employers and the fake employers – the subcontractors, including those posing as ‘labor/manpower cooperatives’,” Josua Mata, Secretary General of SENTRO, said. “It is a lose-lose situation for workers and their families,” he added.

It is quite unfortunate that while President Dutere expressed on many occasions that he wants to end contractualization, DTI is now trying to perversely justify the use of illegal subcontracting, under the guise that the subcontractors will be the ones to ensure and guarantee the end of ENDO.

The truth is, the iniquitous insertion of the “cooperative” and the “legitimate service contractor” on the employment arrangements would always allow employers to disguise their employee-employer relations. This is why the overwhelming majority, if not all, of the subcontracting practices that these sectors seek to legitimize are in fact illegal even under DOLE Department Order D.O. 18-03. But due to the provisions on registration and capitalization contained in the said DO, they were able to twist the regulation in a manner inconsistent with the Labor Code.

It is now clear that DO-18-03 has failed. Instead of containing the proliferation of contractualization, it has made it more widespread. It is thus imperative to repeal the DO-18-03 and replace it with one that would unequivocally prohibit all forms of subcontracting and ENDO practices.

The new rule should be simple: All contracting and subcontracting arrangements should hereby be declared strictly prohibited. And any employer engaged in contracting and subcontracting shall automatically be considered as the subcontracted worker’s direct employer.

“We have tried regulating contractualization for decades and we failed,” Mata said. “Now it is time to prohibit it,” he added.

But even a new Department Order would not be sufficient to solve the problem. We need a new law that would strengthen the constitutional guarantee for security of tenure for all workers, be they in the public and private sectors.

We thus earnestly call on Secretary Sylvestre Bello III to enforce the campaign promise of President Duterte to end contractualization and immediately replace D.O. 18-03, Series of 2011 with a new department order that would prohibit all forms of subcontracting.

We call on President Duterte live up to his promise of ending contractualization by certifying as urgent a bill that would strengthen the constitutional right to security of tenure.

Then and only then can we end Endo in all its forms!

Big Labor Alliance: Time to End Regionalization and Setting of Wages to Barest Minimum

Nagkaisa Labor Coalition

It is the right of every Filipino to live a life of dignity as well as to quality standard of living. And for this national vision to be realized, the 1987 Constitution directed the State to provide labor full protection and ensure the right of workers and their families to a living wage.

Regrettably over the years since the Constitution was ratified, the workers’ demand for a family living wage was never addressed as previous governments deviated towards regionalization and the containment of wages to the barest minimum. This deviation consequently created wide gaps in wage levels all over the country as wage fixing mechanism now seeks the lowest level of balance in every region where the market clearing price of labor is primarily determined on the basis of employer’s capacity to pay rather than on the worker’s right to a living wage. The same problem can be seen in different wage levels in the public sector despite the salary standardization program.

As a result, this minimum wage and regionalization policy created the condition of chronic poverty and deepening inequality in the country as millions of workers were consigned to an imposed reality of sustaining their families on wages that can hardly meet even half of the daily cost of living.

We, the NAGKAISA, therefore, take as delighting news the planned nationalization of the minimum wage announced recently by Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello. It is because of our long-standing position that poverty knows no boundary while inequality is the despicable outcome of unfair distribution of national wealth. This deformed policy clearly needs to be rectified, now!

However, we always consider as mere government propaganda a major pronouncement that is left without form at the policy level. That, certainly, is what happened to the living wage principle that lay lifeless in the Constitution during the last three decades. But since the new administration has made a pledge to rectify the errors of the previous administrations, stopping the plague of contractualization and realizing the living wage were core issues that NAGKAISA and the government can work together in achieving a common goal.

At this particular juncture, the NAGKAISA labor coalition gladly presumes that the Duterte administration remains committed to the principle of living wage and that its planned nationalization of minimum wage will lead towards the ultimate realization of this social objective. Workers, in the first place, deserve not a minimum wage but a fair share in the product of their labor.

Hence, in line with the pronouncement of Secretary Bello, the NAGKAISA is looking forward soon to an Order, or something to that effect, going to be issued by Malacanang. We are looking forward to an instruction to all regional wage boards to issue a uniform wage order that is based on Metro Manila rate. And we are, at the same time, looking forward to a Palace-endorsed or certified bill in Congress seeking the same and eventually the repeal of the existing Wage Rationalization Act.

The NAGKAISA also strongly believe on the principle of equal pay for equal work and work of equal value not just on private sector workers but for those government employees who are in the same bind. In the same breath, the NAGKAISA call on the government for the uniform application and implementation of Salary Standardization Law to all local government units (LGUs).

It is high time to stop the spiral race to the bottom by ending the regionalization and setting of wages to the barest minimum now. The NAGKAISA believes this can be done especially when government will treat the labor movement as main partner to this enormous reform tasks.

Therefore, we urge the government to instruct all regional wage boards to issue a uniform wage order the rate of which is based on Metro Manila. We call on government to certify a bill in Congress seeking the same and, eventually, the repeal of the existing Wage Rationalization Act. The NAGKAISA, likewise, call on the government for the uniform application and implementation of Salary Standardization Law to all local government units (LGUs).

About NAGKAISA

Issue-based NAGKAISA labor coalition is composed of 47 labor federations, workers organizations in public and private sectors and various urban and peasants groups. The group came together in April 2012 to advocate for workers’ living wage, promote security of tenure, to lower the cost and ensure reliable supply of power, and for public sector workers to be allowed to form unions and collectively bargain.

The members of the NAGKAISA are: Alliance of Free Workers (AFW) , All Filipino Workers Confederation (AFWC), Automobile Industry Workers Alliance (AIWA), Alab Katipunan, Association of Genuine Labor Organizations (AGLO), Associated Labor Unions (ALU), Associated Labor Unions- Association of Professional Supervisory Officers Technical Employees Union (ALU-APSOTEU), ALU-Metal, Associated Labor Unions-Philippine Seafarers’Union (ALU-PSU), ALU-Textile, ALU-Transport, Associated Labor Unions-Visayas Mindanao Confederation of Trade Unions (ALU-VIMCOMTU), Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), Association of Trade Unions (ATU), Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), Confederation of Independent Unions (CIU), Confederation of Labor and Allied Social Services (CLASS), Construction Workers Solidarity (CWS), Federation of Coca-Cola Unions (FCCU), Federation of Free Workers (FFW), Kapisanan ng Maralitang Obrero (KAMAO), Katipunan, Pambansang Kilusan sa Paggawa (KILUSAN), Kapisanan ng mga Kawani sa Koreo sa Pilipinas (KKKP), Labor education and Research Network (LEARN), League of Independent Bank Organizations (LIBO), MARINO, National Association of Broadcast Unions (NABU), National Federation of Labor Unions (NAFLU), National Mines and Allied Workers Union (NAMAWU), National Association of Trade Unions (NATU), National Confederation of Labor (NCL), National Confederation of Transport Union (NCTU), National Union of Portworkers in the Philippines (NUPP), National Union of Workers in Hotel, Restaurant and Allied Industries (NUWHRAIN), Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA), Pepsi Cola Employees Union of the Philippines (PEUP), Philippine Government Employees Association (PGEA), Pinag-isang Tinig at Lakas ng Anakpawis (PIGLAS), Philippine Integrated Industries Labor Union (PILLU), Philippine Independent Public Sector Employees Association (PIPSEA), Partido Manggagawa (PM), Philippine Metalworkers Alliance (PMA), Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK), Philippine Transport and General Workers Organization (PTGWO), Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), Workers Solidarity Network (WSN).

NAGKAISA labor coalition calls on creation of a tripartite labor laws compliance inspection task force

#Justice4KentexWorkers! Justice for the #72workers killed at the Kentex fire!
72kentex

The lives and the scathing injury of KENTEX workers are the heavy price for the complete breakdown of government’s labor laws enforcement and for the employers’ patent disregard to the mandatory laws on wages, social protection benefits and the statutory basic workplace safety guidelines.

The KENTEX factory workers’ deaths depict the abominable culture of indifference among many public servants and profit-oriented employers to enforce existing guidelines that uphold workers’ basic rights and well-being.

Therefore, we, the undersigned convenors of the NAGKAISA Labor Coalition, collectively call on Labor Secretary Baldoz to establish a tripartite “Task Force Valenzuela” (TFV) to undertake a surprise sweep and unannounced inspection of factories and plants in the City of Valenzuela to crack down on sweatshops.

In the light of the tragedy that befell our fellow workers in KENTEX, we believe that it now becomes imperative to verify employer compliance with all existing labor laws and safety standards, fire and building structure standards and to determine compliance with all other city requirements for the issuance of business permits and operational licenses.

Justice must now not just be for the KENTEX dead and their families but also for the countless workers nationwide who labor under the same pakyawan system (piecework basis) or through unregistered and unregulated labor manning agencies, to be deployed without any statutory benefits, least of all minimum wages, into firetraps where their lives are sacrificed on the altar of profits. Disposable lives and in the case of the KENTEX workers, thrown away.

We strongly believe that the immoral and illegal activities of the KENTEX owners are actually widespread in Valenzuela, and the inspections should begin in the very factory neighborhood where the fire occurred and with those firms also serviced by the unregistered manning agency. The inspections should also cover those firms that undertook voluntary self-assessments of their labor standard compliance. It is never the best way to enforce labor or safety standards by relying on the mere “say-so” of a very self-interested employer and factory owner.

This proposed crackdown in Valenzuela will have national resonance and will hopefully, by making an example of those who will be caught, ensure that labor standard compliance will be honored more in the practice, rather than in its breach.

We urge the DOLE to seize the historical opportunity to render justice not just for the KENTEX workers but to finally break the widespread culture and practice of corporate irresponsibility that made the loss of the workers lives not just immoral but evil and criminal.

– NAGKAISA Labor Coalition

Sentro slams loopholes in labor standards inspection, certification

kentex2-300x233KENTEX FIRE

SECRETARY Rosalinda Baldoz made a hasty turnaround by branding the owners of Kentex Manufacturing Inc. “not only illegal but also immoral,” when a day before she said that the ill-fated factory has duly conformed to the general labor standards (GLS) and occupational safety and health standards (OSHS).

Baldoz announced last Thursday – a day after the horrifying fire that killed at least 72 Kentex workers – that the Valenzuela City-based slippers and sandals firm was granted by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) a certificate of compliance (COC) with GLS and OSHS following two inspections in January and September last year.

Baldoz explained that the COC issued by the DOLE-National Capital Region office proved that Kentex passed a joint assessment conducted by a DOLE labor inspector (labor laws compliance officer or LLCO) and representatives from the management and workers. She added that the company has even a safety committee that oversees safety rules and regulations.

Sick joke

The national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro) found Baldoz’ first statement to be distasteful or a sick joke in view of the Kentex fire’s high casualties with more than 20 still missing as well as the anguish of the victims’ families.

Even the company lawyer has virtually flaunted the DOLE’s COC as well as the fire safety certification from the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) to deflect the growing public anger and criticism against the Kentex owners.

Josua Mata, Sentro secretary general, said that despite the about-face of Baldoz and the DOLE’s Department Order No. 131, series of 2013 (DO 131-13), or the Rules on Labor Laws Compliance System (LLCS), there is still much to be desired in the country’s GLS and OSHS inspection mechanism and enforcement, as well as on the need for enough number of LLCOs.

‘Amazing inspections’

Sentro expressed its amazement how the purported multiple “inspections” in the Kentex factory by the DOLE, BFP and the local government of Valenzuela failed to notice the very glaring fire hazards posed by the building’s narrow windows boarded up with iron grills and wire mesh that “not even cats could escape through.”

These concentration camp-like windows have trapped the workers and prevented them from escaping on the second floor from the fire that started on the ground floor.

Sentro further enumerated the company’s gross violations of OSHS – the prison-like windows, inadequate fire exits, absence of the mandatory sprinklers and fire drills in factories, overcrowding (number of workers vis-à-vis the size of the building), welding job near highly flammable chemicals that actually triggered the fire, and prior to the incident, the constant exposure of workers to foul-smelling chemicals.

And only after the tragedy that many other glaring violations of other labor laws were exposed in Kentex – GLS, minimum wage, social security and health benefits, illegal subcontracting (so the use of underpaid and overworked contractual workers).

Thus, the complaints of salaries below the minimum wage, withholding pensions, health benefits and other social security benefits (SSS, Philhealth, Pag-Ibig), and 12-hour working days. Kentex is also accused of using a fly-by-night labor subcontractor, the CJC Manpower Services, which had 104 workers at Kentex during the fire, 34 of whom were reported missing and presumed to be among the charred bodies found.

The DOLE immediately washed its hands of any responsibility regarding the said subcontractor by stating that Kentex might have hired CJC Manpower – which in turn provided the company with cheap piece-rate labor – only after the factory was awarded a COC with labor standards (GLS), such as on paying minimum wage and benefits, overtime pay, appropriate working hours, remittance of social security, etc.

This was seconded by Baldoz when she charged Kentex of using “the legitimacy of (DOLE) assessment as (a) cloak to circumvent our laws.” She emphatically added that Kentex “has engaged and is engaging the services of an illegal subcontractor … a violation of the Labor Code.”

Inspecting the labor laws compliance ‘inspection’

Government data show that a total of 76,880 companies were inspected in 2014, compared to an average of 23,400 firms checked in the previous decade. A high of 76 percent or 51,569 companies were deemed “compliant” with the GLS and OSHS.

However, in 2013 there were only close to 600 labor inspectors (LLCOs), a measly number compared to 944,897 business establishments operating in the Philippines as of 2012 – 99.6 percent or 940,886 are MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) and 0.42 percent or 4,011 are large enterprises.

Likewise, the focus on the so-called “voluntary compliance” and “self-assessment” in the DOLE’s LLCS has been described by a labor leader as if the government is “asking the wolf to guard the sheep. No wonder the sheep get slaughtered.”

Thus, there are suggestions to deputize reputable trade union leaders as LLCOs to substantially increase the ranks of labor inspectors and LLC inspections. The LLCOs from the unions and from the DOLE must of course undergo an intensive seminar and training on labor laws and LLCS, and could resist bribery and other forms of corruption that are routinely dangled by unscrupulous employers.

Sentro further added that organized labor should sit down to review the current LLCS with the end view of fixing its loopholes (legal, procedural, etc.) or weaknesses, increasing the coverage, strengthening the mechanism, and ensuring its enforcement.

“This drive is of course part and parcel of the overall campaign of the labor movement to uphold and protect labor and trade union rights,” Sentro said.