Service contracting not endo

FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas - The Philippine Star

The Executive Order (EO) prohibiting labor-only contracting signed by President Duterte last May 1 did little to calm the sentiments of labor groups, who claimed that their demand was for the EO to make direct hiring the standard in employment contracts, citing the evil schemes of employers who terminate employees right before the latter are entitled to the benefits of regular employees under labor law.

However, there may be another side to this connotation regarding contracting jobs. During a session at the Bulong Pulungan sa Sofitel forum, the Philippine Society of Management Services (PSMS), a group of legitimate service contractors, not only expressed their support for the move of the government to abolish the practice of ENDO, 555, or contractualization, but also made it clear that there was a marked difference between service contracting and ENDO.

“We would like to emphasize that service contracting is not the same as ENDO or 555 or contractualization. ENDO, 555, or contractualization is the practice of hiring workers for short periods of five months or less to avoid regularization. We believe this to be wrong and do not support it,” said Jay Antonio Meloto, PSMS president. 

Director Atty. Danilo Patron explained further that “It is not necessary to directly hire to end ENDO as all employees under legitimate service providers are already regular.” By this, Patron meant that legitimate service contracting already provides regular jobs with the proper wages, benefits, and security of tenure that are required by law. 

“Without service contracting, people with less educational attainment or no work experience will have difficulty getting a regular job and supporting their families. With service contractors, those that have less are now given more opportunities to get regular jobs becoming the source of their livelihood,” the group said. 

 Two employees hired by service contractors – Marjorie Mae Cotoner, a high school graduate; and Reyjun Garcia, who holds a college diploma – were also able to share their employment stories, from Marjorie’s experiencing ENDO first hand from her previous employer to Reyjun having several jobs, including one where he was directly hired. 

We were surprised to hear that they prefer their jobs as service providers. For one, they enjoy their regular status, pay, benefits, and security of tenure; for another thing, they found career growth in the said industry. 

“I never thought a high school graduate like me would get a regular, good-paying job with full benefits. I tried applying for jobs where I could be directly hired, but I was never accepted. My employer who is a service provider for different companies gave me this opportunity to work. I am grateful for this job. It gave people like me, who don’t have enough resources to finish school, the chance to save and plan for a better future for ourselves and our families,” Marjorie said in Filipino. 

For his part, Reyjun shared the difficulty of getting a rewarding, full-time job in the province. “It is not easy to be directly employed in the province; the opportunity is scarce, competition is tough. But with the presence of legitimate service providers in our province (Isabela), a lot of us were given jobs that enabled us to grow as well, because it gave us opportunities that we never thought were available for us in our area, which is a regular job with good salary and benefits.”

During the forum, Meloto highlighted the fact that the industry of service providers exists to produce regular, dignified jobs that uplift the lives of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos and help boost the economy. “We contribute 1.3 million regular jobs and P35 billion in taxes every year,” he said.

If, despite PSMS’ argument – that the negative connotation of service contracting is actually based on a mere misapprehension of terms – labor groups persist with pushing a policy of direct hiring upon the government, will not this eventually cause more harm than good, given that legitimate service contracting already provides a solution to that boogeyman of widespread unemployment? 

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As a follow up to my story on ACTS-OFW Rep. Aniceto ‘John’ Bertiz III’s reaction to the proposed draft of a memorandum of understanding between the Philippine government and that  of Kuwait, the representative from Quezon City now hails the adoption of a new MOA as it “offers far greater protection to Filipino domestic workers” than a previous draft.

“Our sense is, the Kuwaiti government signed the better deal on account of President Duterte’s tough and uncompromising stance in safeguarding the rights and welfare of our domestic workers,” Bertiz said in a press statement sent to me.

In the MOA, Bertiz said the Kuwaiti government agreed to “take legal measures against erring employers” and to “provide legal assistance” to domestic workers concerning labor contract violations by employers. It also agreed to “provide a mechanism of inspection and monitoring of the level of care offered to domestic workers through official authorities in Kuwait.” 

It agreed to “establish a mechanism, which shall provide 24-hour assistance to domestic workers,” and to “ensure that aggrieved workers shall have access to the services” of the emirate’s Department of Domestic Labor, Bertiz said.  The Kuwaiti government also conceded that the passports of Filipinos are Philippine government property, and agreed to forbid employers from seizing the passports of their workers.

Bertiz congratulated Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III and Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers Abdullah Mama-o for their teamwork in reaching a deal with Kuwait.

 It is now up to the President whether he would partially lift the total ban on the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait.

“The President has the option to partially lift the deployment ban with respect to Filipino professionals and other skilled workers who are seldom mistreated because they are difficult to replace. In a way, these workers are protected by their proficiencies,” Bertiz said.

“The situation of domestic workers is different. They are far more susceptible, especially because they live with their employers,” Bertiz said.

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ON ANOTHER front: More than 400 women law enforcers from 13 various government agencies participated in a conference hosted by the Republic Defenders Corp. at the AFP commissioned officers club in Camp Aguinaldo.

Atty. Agnes VST Devanadera, Energy Regulatory Commission head, was the guest speaker at the conference aimed to tackle the issues, challenges and problems confronting women law enforcers. It also served as the venue to share Best Practices to ultimately raise the bar of excellence in law enforcement. At the occasion, the Search for Outstanding Women Law Enforcers of the Philippines (OWLEP) was launched; this to give due recognition to women law enforcers who excel in their chosen profession and contribute to the advancement of their communities. The award will be given in March 2019.

Other resource speakers were Prof. Clarita Carlos of UP, Congresswoman Emmeline Villar of DIWA, a leading advocate of women’s rights, Commissioner Greco Belgica of the Presidential Anti-Crime Prevention Commission, and  Asec. Marie Banaag of the Presidential Communication office.

Police Supt. Kimberly Molitas who conceptualized the event was coordinator and emcee.  She is a Fulbright Humphrey fellow, like the other guest, Dr. Ruby Palma, a women’s rights advocate and  Lt. Col. for the Philippine Army Reserves Sector.

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Email: [email protected].

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