TRADE SECRETARY Ramon M. Lopez said he is against proposals to empower the Secretary of Labor to determine which jobs at a company are outsourced, a key feature of the re-filed Security of Tenure bill prepared by the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE).

Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello has said that his department’s version of the new Security of Tenure (SoT) bill will give him such powers, potentially determining which outsourced functions at each company will be illegal.

The SoT bill from the last Congress — Senate Bill 1826, which was also adopted by the House — was vetoed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte after the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) weighed in that it lacked balance, with insufficient protections for investors, who might hesitate to locate or expand operations here.

Mr. Lopez told BusinessWorld that the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) position is that based on Mr. Duterte’s veto message, he thinks that the DoLE’s recommendation will not allow employers sufficient hiring flexibility.

Mr. Bello has said that he is planning to change a provision in SB 1826, which called for a tripartite body to determine which occupations in a business can be outsourced and which workers should be offered a path to regular status. He said this proposal will be added to the DoLE’s draft SoT Bill which will be submitted later this month.

“Based sa sinabi ng pangulo, siguro ‘di ko muna tatanggapin ‘yun (based on what the President said, I think I cannot accept that (recommendation)… ‘Pag ginawa mo kasi ‘yun (If you do that), you’re not giving companies flexibility,” he said.

In Mr. Duterte’s veto message dated July 26, he said businesses should be permitted to identify which activities within their operations should be outsourced or not “especially when job-contracting will result in economies and efficiencies in their operations, with no detriment to the workers, regardless of whether this is directly related to their business.”

Prior to the veto, Mr. Bello sent a letter to the Palace stating DoLE’s support for the SoT Bill, co-signed by Mr. Lopez. Mr. Lopez said that the DTI supported the passage of the SoT Bill but agrees with Mr. Duterte that some provisions of the bill should be adjusted to allow hiring flexibility.

“It’s important that we keep the flexibility of the company kasi kung bibigyan namin ‘yan ng restriction at iba pang body ang mag-de-determine (because if we restrict that and give that power to another body), it makes the system more rigid and not that conducive for business,” he said.

When asked what adjustments could be added to the SoT Bill, Mr. Lopez said one way to guarantee security of tenure is to regularize workers upon hiring. He said having “ease of hiring” will also entail an uncomplicated process in retrenching employees which normally involves a series of clearances.

“(I)f we want to give security of tenure, let’s regularize workers immediately (after hiring). (Let’s have) ease of hiring…at least may choice din na madali ka i-terminate (it allows companies the option of terminating easily),” Mr. Lopez said.

Mr. Bello said that he is set to meet with the DTI before submitting the new SoT Bill to the President. Mr. Lopez said that he and Mr. Bello will meet soon to discuss the draft. — Gillian M. Cortez