Executive Order 51 legalizes, not ends, contractualization

Kilusang Mayo Uno

On this year’s historic Labor Day, we congratulate workers around the Philippines for showing an unprecedented unity across the entire political spectrum, to stand together against contractualization.

We condemn President Rodrigo Duterte for once again making a mockery of Filipino workers, by signing the deceptive, grossly anti-worker Executive Order (EO) 51 that ignores the just demands of the 50,000 workers who marched to Mendiola and the 150,000 more who gathered in other protest centers around the country.

The EO was immediately exposed by the national labor centers leading the march as fake and misleading, purported to end contractualization while actually further entrenching the anti-worker practice.

1. EO 51 does NOT end all forms of contractualization; it only further legalizes the practice.

Even from the title and introduction of Duterte’s EO, the lack of genuine commitment to end contractualization is apparent. The signed EO is based on the draft prepared by the labor sector over the past year, as ordered by Duterte, yet the language has been heavily watered down and rendered inutile. Virtually all references to contractualization have been stripped out of the government version.

The EO 51 merely reiterates anti-worker provisions in the labor code that has in fact legalized contractualization and led to the prevalence of various contractual employment schemes. (see reference 1)

reference 1

2. EO 51 worsens the existing loopholes in labor law such as DO 174.

The coalition of workers that attended several negotiations, dialogues, and summits with the Duterte administration has been clear in their main goals.

The first is to establish direct hiring as the primary mode of hiring for Filipino workers, as opposed to job contracting through manpower agencies. The second is to fix the loopholes in existing law on contractualization; in particular, DOLE Department Order 174, which sets out policies as to which forms are illegal, but does not ban contractualization altogether.

But EO 51 is even worse than DO 174, because it further establishes labor contracting through agencies as the standard of employment in the country. This is a severe blow to workers’ right to job security, and all the other rights that come with regularization and a stable, long-term employer-employee relationship.

EO 51 is likely to pave the way for massive retrenchments, and re-alignment and re-hiring of regular workers as contractuals under third party contracting agencies. (see reference 2)

reference 2

3. EO 51 means that Duterte is responsible for enforcing and implementing the pending DOLE orders on regularization.

Over the past few years, KMU has led workers from various companies in mass filing for labor standards and labor-only contracting inspections, resulting in a string of DOLE orders for regularization of more than 100,000 contractual workers.

However, the majority of those DOLE orders for regularization remain unimplemented. Worse, regularization orders from DOLE regional offices, especially those involving big multinational companies, were even reversed by DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III himself. With the issuance of this EO 51, the implementation of these regularization orders now lie on Duterte’s hand.

In fact, the government EO completely removes the provision which sets out a budget for implementation of the EO. This clearly shows the Duterte administration’s lack of commitment to actually enforcing any of these DOLE orders. (see reference 3)

reference 3

As it stands, EO 51 is a total rejection of Filipino workers’ demand for regular jobs. Duterte has again killed the hopes of millions of contractual workers — especially long-standing contractuals — of being regularized. The EO 51 is anti-worker, pro-contractualization and pro-big business and therefore should be junked.

Our struggle for regular jobs continues. We call on all Filipino workers to further unite and fight Duterte’s failed promises and rejection of our demand to end contractualization. We must further assert our demand for direct hiring and regularization through principal employers and not through contracting agencies.

We must intensify our collective action to put pressure on the government to implement long pending regularization orders. We urge on the millions of contractual workers to join us in mass filing for regularization before both the DOLE and the Office of the President.