EMPLOYERS warned that the Security of Tenure Bill (SoT) will dampen investment and increase unemployment if enacted, ahead of the bicameral conference committee session to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill later this week.

At the Employers Confederation of the Philippines’ (ECoP) 40th annual conference, ECoP Chair Edgardo G. Lacson said: “For regulations to provide punitive sanctions, we believe that these are disincentives to investment. No investor in their right mind will do business in a country where they are intimidated and threatened to be put in jail should they be found non-compliant, especially with the kind of labor inspectorate and labor justice system we have right now.”

“Investment creates employment so you should not discourage investment,” he said.

Philippine Association of Legitimate Service Contractors Inc. (PALSCON) President Rhoda C. Caliwara added that passing the SoT Bill is not the only way to assure protection of workers.

“If there’s a policy, it should be how to harmonize the interests of both labor and capital, not about demonizing one or the other. We still need investment to generate employment. It’s still employment that’s the best social protection that the economy can give to our workers,” she said.

Former Labor Undersecretary Josephus B. Jimenez said he believes the bill may not be approved as is by President Rodrigo R. Duterte despite its designation as urgent last year.

“It’s very possible that a compromise will be agreed but the president will not approve the entire bill as proposed by the Bicam because the president understands the realities on the ground… Such a law will be harmful to the economy,” Mr. Jimenez said during the conference.

ECoP President Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis said that regularizing workers does not always assure better employment, since employers will be forced to reduce hiring if they don’t have the capacity to regularize every worker. Any elimination of contracting activities should focus on those that are already classified in the current Labor Code as illegal.

“You have to be remember that regularization does not create jobs… We have already succeeded in eliminating the evils of 555 and Endo but we’re going beyond that (with the SoT Bill) which will affect worldwide competition,” he told reporters on Tuesday. Endo and 555 refer to employment practices that deny workers a pathway to regular employment, typically by denying them the six-month tenure the law requires before mandatory regularization.

Last week, the Senate approved the SoT Bill 15-0 on third and final reading. The bicameral conference committee session to harmonize the two versions of the bill is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.

The 17th Congress is scheduled to adjourn next week, June 3.

Labor Undersecretary Ana B. Dione said employers have nothing to worry about if ever the SoT Bill is enacted as it just clarifies the definition of contractualization, which the Labor Code failed to explain.

“There is still contractualization… but legal work arrangements. We hope that it clarifies the unclear provisions of the current law… if it’s a clearer definition, it’s easier to implement. It creates a better understanding for employees and management,” she said at the conference. — Gillian M. Cortez