FOLLOWING their denunciation of the government’s decision to cut the budget for state universities and colleges (SUCs), a growing number of youths and students are also voicing their support for the enactment of the long pending Security of Tenure (SOT) bill in Congress.
This was gleaned from today’s trailblazing symposium on the SOT bill held at the Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology (EARIST) in Manila, where about 600 students attended and learned the proposed law’s relevance and benefits to the struggling working students, to the employment status of their parents that could indicate the ability to sustain their studies, and even to themselves when they become employed in the future.
The first of a series of SOT bill forums for the youth and student sector organized by the Alliance of Progressive Labor-Youth, the enthusiastic and positive reception in the EARIST activity as well as the initial feedbacks from other schools and communities with APL-Youth members suggest that the bill has acquired new adherents aside from the organized labor, the APL said.
House Bill No. 4853 or the SOT bill proposes extensive amendments and additional provisions in the Labor Code aimed at wide-ranging measures to correct and prevent many forms of contractualization or subcontracting, the APL explained. There is also a counterpart bill in the Senate.
In particular, the APL added, the SOT bill will strengthen security of tenure in the private sector – there is a separate bill for government employees – by instituting stringent rules against many methods in perpetuating contractual jobs that stop the workers from attaining regular status and all the rights, benefits and privileges attached to it.
Key provisions of the SOT bill include reinforcing the definition of regular employment, prohibiting fixed-term employment, further curbing labor-only contracting, added protections for workers against willful outsourcing, tough regulations to become authorized subcontractors, strong penalties to violators, enhancing provisions against management ULPs (unfair labor practices), setting a 20 percent cap on the number of contractuals in a company, stipulating rights of contractual workers (including written contract), among others.
Because of its pro-worker provisions, the SOT bill has been fiercely opposed by pro-capitalist legislators and of course the employers, especially the Big Business. It was first filed in 2001 during the 12th Congress and was only re-filed in the next Congresses until the current 15th Congress. Last June it was approved by the House Committee on Labor and Employment for the eventual plenary discussion and voting.
From the original to the present SOT bill, Akbayan party-list and the APL have been deeply involved in its formulation and advocacy by providing much needed inputs and active support inside and outside Congress.
Speakers in the symposium include a representative of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, the head of the Senate Labor and Employment Committee; Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello; Josua Mata, APL secretary general; and Gio Tingson, commissioner of the National Youth Commission.
Actual experiences of working students on the menace of contractualization, especially in the fast food sector, were shared in the testimonial portion of the gathering.
The activity was a joint project of the Alliance of Progressive Students (APS) in EARIST and APL-Youth. It was also supported by the school administration.
Students in EARIST, an SUC, were very active in the recent protests against substantial reduction in the government’s education budget, particularly funds for the SUCs.