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Opinion

Labor Day's betrayal of the working class  

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez - The Freeman

Today, Labor Day, I am saddened to say that the Philippine government has lost its moral authority to call on employers to respect workers' rights. The government is the number one violator of labor laws. I say that with no intent to disrespect Labor Secretary Bebot Bello. President Duterte is ending his term but what has he done to address contractualization? Was his promise to end it just a joke?

Labor Day or not, the government continues to be unfair against labor. I'm not anti-government. I worked there for more than 25 years from casual worker to DOLE undersecretary. My parents were both public school teachers. My brother worked in DOLE for over 40 years. I still serve the government as a voluntary arbitrator of labor disputes. But I protest against the double standards being practiced by the government.

Private businesses are being compelled to absorb the workers of contractors under labor-only contracting. But the government keeps on hiring job order workers and denies them employer-employee relationship. If that isn’t hypocrisy, I don’t know what is. If that isn’t double standard, then there can never be any. DOLE inspectors keep intruding into private business establishments, looking into the payrolls of private establishments and, even without any hearing, issue orders to comply or even close the factory or office. They interview one or two workers of contractors, then make conclusions that affect thousands and order the management to pay millions.

The government has retained casuals, contractuals, contract workers, job order workers for the longest time. These workers don’t have SSS, PhilHealth, or Pag-Ibig. They are assigned the most difficult, dirty, and dangerous jobs. But when they die in the line of duty, their family members receive nothing, I repeat, nothing but the "abuloy'' from officemates and friends. Is the government proud of its hypocrisy? What is the Civil Service Commission or Congress doing about this? This a huge slap to the face of the government. Can we say then that the government is the number one violator of labor laws?

Government's own rules define job order to refer to "the hiring of a worker for a piece of work or intermittent job for short duration not exceeding six months and pay is on a daily or hourly basis. It is to be understood that the piece of work or job to be performed requires special or technical skills not available in the agency and the same is to be accomplished under the workers' own responsibility with minimum supervision by the hiring agency. A contract of service or job order which does not cover special or technical skills or where the functions to be performed are clerical or administrative in nature or where the worked is also performed by the regular personnel of the agency, may be entered into only when in the exigency of the service and is not feasible for the agency to hire said services under a casual or contractual arrangement."

The unkindest cut of all is the government's rules declaring, rather nonchalantly, that "In contracts of service and job orders, there exists no employer-employee relationship between the hiring agency and the persons hired (This is a contradiction in terms: how can you be hired and not become an employee? My God) and it should be made clear in their contracts that services rendered thereunder can never be accredited as government service. Furthermore, the persons hired are not entitled to benefits enjoyed by government employees, such as PERA, ACA, and RATA." This is the greatest unmasking of this hypocrisy. The government denies an employment relationship to deny benefits. Government just wants to enjoy the services without paying for the total package of benefits.

If I may be forgiven with a little naughty analogy, this kind of arrangement is like having a wife and then getting a paramour, compelling the latter to sign an agreement that she would not be entitled to the rights of a legitimate spouse. She is expected to give the full service, but she better not expect the full benefits. If you don’t call that hypocrisy, I will call it systemic exploitation in its worst degree. And if it’s the government that does that, I don’t know how to convince my students that the government deserves our respect.

I wonder what Ka Leody de Guzman, the workers' presidential candidate, has to say about this. At least, I am very sure Vice President Leni is not joking on her stand on such a travesty against the working class.

LABOR DAY

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