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Opinion

A movement to repeal Labor Code

WHAT MATTERS MOST - The Freeman

The Labor Code of the Philippines, written by a great man, perhaps the greatest Labor secretary, Blas F. Ople, and promulgated by the Martial Law dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, has outlived its usefulness. It served its purposes well for 46 years. Times are different now. Today, a group of mission-oriented Filipinos is launching a national movement to abrogate and change this anachronism.

This writer has been commissioned by one congressman from northern Luzon to draft a new Human Capital Code of the Philippines, one that is relevant to the emerging realities of a globalized world, responsive to the demands and challenges of contemporary social, economic, and political dynamics among labor, capital and governments. The new code must also be faithful to the unique character and soul of Filipinos, more Asian in approaches to labor problems and less adversarial, less confrontational and more consensus-building and consultative.

First of all, we should drop the term “labor” from the title because they are no longer laborers or workers (terms which are more associated with manual labor). Instead, we should adopt the new term “human capital”. The term “laborer” has already evolved to “employees”, then to “personnel”, then to “human resources”. But resources can be used, abused, exploited and even wasted and disposed of. Thus, the more humane and apt term is “human capital,” which is more important than financial capital. Our 1987 Constitution provides very clearly that “the State affirms labor as a primary social and economic force. It shall protect the rights of workers and promote their welfare.” (Section 18, Article II)

We need to start the Labor Code with fundamental principles and basic policies, like social justice, which is fair to all, full protection to labor without oppression nor destruction of capital, police power of the state exercised with due regard to both workers' rights and management prerogatives. Then, we should have a clear definition of terms and clarify what exactly are the meanings of regular, causal, project, fixed-term, seasonal, probationary and contractual status. Then, we should put clarity to wage-fixing, re-examine the rationale for regionalization of wages and install systems for productivity-based compensation and benefits. We should also streamline the tax systems on wages and benefits.

Then, we should look into the possibility of integrating the SSS and the GSIS and leverage from the economy and synergy of combining assets and removing too many vice presidents doing trivial and ant-labor tasks. We shall restructure workers and employers' representation in the boards of SSS, PhilHealth, Pag-ibig, POEA, OWWA, Employee Compensation Commission and other institutions. We should also strengthen the NCMB and give preference to voluntary arbitrators, consider abolishing the NLRC commission and making decisions of the Labor Arbiters directly appealable to the Court of Appeals to hasten labor justice. We need to fix the law on unionism, collective bargaining, unfair labor practices and strikes.

We are also clarifying the grounds for termination of employment and the correct procedures for due-process. The Labor Code is no longer attuned to the temper of the times. It is time to let it go and a new code be enacted to cover the substantive and procedural law, from hiring to retiring. It is my great honor and distinct opportunity to be entrusted with this draconian task of drafting the Human Capital Code to govern labor and employment in the next 50 years or so.

LABOR CODE

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