APL chides foreign, local Big Business, for opposing ‘security of tenure bill’

The Alliance of Progressive Labor lashed out at the umbrella organization of foreign business groups, as well as the association of HR managers, in the country for pressuring the Congress to dump the bill that aims to strengthen the security of tenure of private sector workers and to strictly regulate the much abused use of temporary labor.

In a letter to Speaker Prospero Nograles dated Aug. 18 but picked up by the media only this week, the Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines (JFC) has “advised” the Congress that House Bill No. 6532 is “counter-productive to …enhancing employment and employability (and) will discourage investments and businesses and result in the loss of jobs.”

Echoing the JFC’s letter, the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP) declared that HB 6532 “will hurt the very people (that it) seeks to protect,” particularly the so-called “contingent staff,” a new corporate euphemism for contractual, casual, fixed term, project and other part-time employees.

This is surely the position also of many big Filipino employers as the PMAP’s member companies include the top local conglomerates whose respective chambers of commerce and industry may be waiting only for a more opportune time to release their official statements against the bill, the APL said.

Topping the proposed provisions in the bill that stirred up the management groups are the 20-percent cap on the number of casual or contractual workers that a firm may hire vis-à-vis its total workforce; and the more stringent requirements on subcontracting and stiffer penalties for violators.

“It’s about time that we put a stop to the longtime and rampant practice of unscrupulous employers in maintaining ‘perpetual or perennial casuals or contractual,’ who, because of their employment status, are deprived of many rights and benefits that regular employees are entitled to,” Edwin Bustillos, APL deputy secretary general, said, in expressing the labor center’s support to HB 6532.

Bustillos admitted that while some non-regular workers receive minimum wage or even higher and several statutory benefits, but this is “exception to the rule, since it is a known fact that the vast majority of them do not enjoy the legally mandated salary and the long list of healthcare and social security benefits.”

He likened the dilemma of non-regular workers to having the sword of Damocles constantly hanging over their heads: Although they have “work” today and could be earning “good,” but all this could vanish in a wink of an eye – precisely because of “job insecurity.”

Bustillos also stressed that “without exception, all the non-regular workers are not allowed to join unions; thus, making them more vulnerable to abuses and exploitation, and denying them additional rights and benefits due to union members, especially those with CBAs.”

“In fact, the opposition to regularization is part of a grand corporate strategy worldwide: To keep, if not to expand, a huge army of non-regular and informal workers who are much ‘cheaper’ or more ‘docile,’ scattered and pitted both against each other and the regular workers, especially the union members, and banned from joining unions,” Bustillos said.

The APL called the JFC and PMAP’s “implied threat” of business and investment exodus outside the country if the bill is passed as “ad nauseam, blackmail and a mere braggadocio.”

“We already heard that threat for the nth time. The last we heard is that the companies are still here, amassing superprofits and benefiting from the labor and skills of the Filipino workers,” the APL quipped.

Even official data also reveal that despite the “employment generation” boasts of both the government and the large businesses, especially the transnational corporations or TNCs, the quality of jobs has deteriorated.

Reflecting the yearly surge of part-time work, it further increased in April to 2.4 million or a sharp 19.9 percent growth, and now accounts for 14.3 million or an enormous 41 percent of the 35 million “employed” in the 37-million Philippine labor force.

Full-time employment, on the other hand, declined by 4.5 percent or it lost a whopping 925,000 workers in the same period.

In the agricultural sector – where HB 6532 proposes to abolish the widely exploited “seasonal” work classification – a pitiful 258,200 jobs were created annually in the last eight years. In fact, this very strategic sector has registered last year a mere 18.1 percent share in the gross domestic product (GDP), the lowest in the country’s history.

Agriculture’s main partner industry, the manufacturing sector, has shrunk to almost its 1950s’ level or 23.1 percent last year.

Without belittling the business process outsourcing industry (BPO) – the sector that both the JFC and PMAP are warning that will rethink “of locating operations elsewhere” if HB 6532 is enacted – also last year, this sector accounted for only 1.1 percent of the total employment and 2 percent of the country’s GDP.

“Aside from providing regular employment to the Filipino workers, which they deserve and is already long overdue, especially for the ‘perpetual casuals,’ what the country needs is a genuine development program that will include the revitalization of the domestic economy and the creation of quality jobs – especially in the agriculture and the manufacturing sectors – without trampling on the labor and trade union rights of the workers,” Bustillos said.

According to the Committee Report 2179, issued last 11 June 1009, HB 6532 or “An Act to Strengthening Security of Tenure of Workers in the Private Sector” intends to amend the Articles 248, 279, 280, 281, and 288 of PD 442, as amended, otherwise known as the Labor Code of the Philippines. HB 6532 also introduces new articles into the Labor Code: Articles 106, 106-A, 106-B, 106-C, 106-D, 106-E, 280-A and 280-B.

HB 6532 was introduced by Hon. Magtanggol T. Gunigundo I (Velenzuela, 2nd Disctrict), Chairperson of the Committee on Labor and Employment, Hon. Risa Hontiveros (PL, Akbayan), Hon. Mauricio G. Domogan (Baguio, Lone District), Hon. Rufus B. Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro, 2nd District), Hon. Carmelo F. Lazatin (Pampanga 1st District), Hon. Maria Evita R. Arago (Laguna, 3rd District), Hon. Iggy T. Arroyo (Negros Occidental, 5th District), and Hon. Narcisio D. Santiago III (PL, ARC).

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