Despite committing to end the widespread practice of hiring workers for just under six months to escape the responsibility of providing them benefits due regular workers, President Rodrigo Duterte has vetoed the security of tenure bill.
The President gave numerous reasons for his decision. He said the bill in its present form unduly broadens the scope and definition of prohibited labor-only contracting. He said legitimate job-contracting should be allowed so long as the contractor is well-capitalized.
Mr. Duterte believes businesses should be free to farm out jobs to third parties if doing so would make operations efficient and would not put existing workers at a disadvantage.
Finally, he believes in balancing the interests of capital and labor.
Duterte acted on the recommendations of, among others, Secretary of Socio-Economic Planning Ernesto Pernia, who said a law on security of tenure must benefit both labor and business. If the law would deter investments and, as a result, lead to fewer job opportunities, Filipino workers would suffer in the long run.
Now the bill has to be refiled in the just-begun 18th Congress, amid the President’s continued “firm commitment to protect the workers’ right to security of tenure by eradicating all forms of abusive employment practices.”
Numerous administrations have been trying to find that sweet spot between the interests of workers on one hand, and of business, on the other. Each group needs the other, and in balancing these needs there are numerous factors that must be considered—practical reasons, yes, but also principles of social equity and justice. This is why labor issues have always been emotionally and politically charged.
The Duterte administration appears to have passed that stage of deciding whether “endo”—specifically the kind that oppresses workers and consigns them to a vicious cycle—must be ended. The President has said so. He said this while he was campaigning, and he certified the security of tenure bill as urgent.
It is the fine print that is tricky, however. It makes us doubt whether there could be, indeed, a sweet spot.
Efforts to draft the new bill must be done in earnest, and upon better consultation with both labor and business representatives. Numerous interests will certainly come into play, but we hope lawmakers will find the best compromise so we can at least move forward on this gut issue.
The longer we wait, the more those with really vested interests will continue to benefit by oppressing workers whom they see as nothing more than an input to production.