By Arjay L. Balinbin

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte, who promised to end labor contractualization or “endo” during his 2016 presidential campaign, announced on Monday, Feb. 26, that he may not be able to give what labor groups want, stressing that a compromise is needed.

“I don’t think that I can really give them all because we cannot force the capitalists [to absorb their workers]. Maybe [their employers] don’t have money, or they don’t like them, or they are lazy,” Mr. Duterte said during the inauguration of the ARMSCOR Shooting Center, Inc. (ASCI) in Davao City.

“Don’t make it hard for them to run the business the way they like it because that’s their money. So something of a compromise must be…maybe acceptable to everybody,” he added.

Mr. Duterte pointed out that only a few businesses in the country can absorb workers, noting as well the “sheer number of people who need jobs.”

“So they [the employers] want some radical changes,” he said.

Mr. Duterte also cited other countries “like Hong Kong and the United States, (where, if) you work for a certain guy and if he does not like the quality that you produce, you get out, you get paid, separated and that’s it. Ganun lang sana (That’s how they are).”

Earlier this month, Mr. Duterte asked for more time to study a new proposed executive order (EO) on contractualization drafted by labor groups.

Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III had also announced that the President will be signing the said EO “by March.”

In a phone interview, Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) vice-president Angelita D. Senorin said:   “That’s from his [the President’s] campaign. He said he would put an end to ‘endo.’ We don’t agree with the compromise, because the security of tenure of our employees should never be compromised.”

“Some provisions in the draft EO that (were) submitted to the President earlier this month “were changed,” she added.

“Nung dina-draft ’yong EO, may mga napagkasunduan na noong una, and then noong na-finalize during sa meeting sa Malacañang with Secretaries, may ilang points na nabago.” (When the EO was being drafted, there were already some provisions already agreed on, and when it was finalized during the meeting at Malacañang with the Cabinet Secretaries, some points were changed.)

Asked to specify which provisions were changed, Ms. Senorin cited Article 290 of the said draft EO.

“Binago ’yong (They changed the provision) under article 290, saying the Secretary of Labor, in consultation with the National Tripartite Industry Peace Council (TIPC), shall determine by appropriate regulation activities which may be contracted out.”

“Parang ang dating dito ay binibigyan ng full power ang Secretary of Labor to determine kung ano ’yong pwedeng i-contract out at ano ’yong hindi,” she argued.(It sounds like the Secretary of Labor was given the full power to determine which jobs can and cannot be contracted out.)

The labor group leader likewise explained that if the nature of a job is “necessary and desirable” as far as the company is concerned, contracting this out is “not allowed.”

“Hindi allowed kapagka necessary and desirable ’yung nature ng trabaho sa klase ng serbisyo ng kumpanya,” she said.

“Kagaya ng electronics, assembly lines, ’yung nandon sa production who are necessary sa business. Ang dapat lang na kinocontractual out ay yung kagaya ng nasa janitorial services, securities, etc.,” Ms. Senorin added. (Like those in electronics, assembly lines, or those in production [which] are necessary to business. The only workers who can be contracted out are janitors, securities, etc.)

For his part, Employers Confederation of the Philippines ( ECoP) President Donald G. Dee argued that “the labor groups are not accepting what they originally accepted.”

“The labor group is very one-sided. The President has repeatedly said you make [or draft] whatever you want but make sure [he] can sign it,” Mr. Dee said in a phone interview.

Asserting that labor groups had already agreed to the draft EO before it was submitted to the President, Mr. Dee stressed that the labor groups “are changing it, and they are making it very one-sided or very radical.”

He also noted that “it’s impossible to work; and, therefore, the President doesn’t want it because what he is concerned with is it must be fair….”

“There was already a compromise in the EO1, then there was another EO. It was a compromise agreement. Now, they don’t want it also. They are proposing to the President a new EO, which has nothing to do with the compromise version. They don’t want the compromise version anymore. You cannot do that.”

“Para bang meeting na kami ng meeting, ilang buwan na kaming nagmi-meeting, tapos ano? Nagbago isip natin eh.” (It’s like we are always meeting. We have been meeting for how many months, then what? They change their minds.)

Mr. Dee likewise explained that both the labor groups and the employers’ alliance have already “agreed that ‘endo’ is definitely outlawed.” However, “it (management) is allowed to contract out,” he added.

“It depends on the company which jobs they want to contract out. There’s no provision in contracting out,” he said.

Asked who decides which jobs can be contracted out, Mr. Dee said: “All companies are free to go into any kinds of arrangements. That’s a management decision.”

“Of course, where in the world did you see that I am the employer and I cannot hire [which workers I want to hire]? Sino papayag n’yan? (Who will agree to that?),” he said, noting as well that “it (hiring) has to be rule-based.”

When asked to confirm Ms. Senorin’s claim that a provision under article 290 in the EO was changed, Mr. Dee said: “I haven’t seen it yet.”

As for Mr. Duterte’s remarks saying that employers cannot be forced to keep their workers, Mr. Dee said: “If you don’t like them anymore, then you have to pay them separation pay as stated in the Labor Code, (which) is adopted in the EO. We can do anything as long as it’s within the law. If it’s outside the law, it’s impossible to happen.”