Church official seeks end to worker contractualization

A Catholic Church official said if the government cannot grant a salary increase to workers, it should at least abolish the contractualization of workers as a “Labor Day” gift to the country’s laborers.

“Since it’s Labor Day today, I hope the workers receive a gift from the government by improving their working conditions and their pay,” Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines National Secretariat for Social Action Justice & Peace, said in an interview.

[caption id="attachment_136396" align="aligncenter" width="655"] People walking along a street in Sta. Mesa, Manila looks at a graffiti paint depicting labor struggle. Workers will march and protest to celebrate the International Workers Day on May 1, 2014. (KJ ROSALES)[/caption]

“They should also address the contractualization of labor because that is against the labor code,” he added.

Pay hike for state workers

The bishop’s statement came as a Senate committee sought yesterday to increase the monthly pay of all government workers led by the President whose measly P120,000  monthly wage will rise to P1 million, inclusive of allowances.

The pay hike to be implemented in a phased five-year period does not cover the current crop of civil servants including members of the Cabinet and Congress. It will only become effective after the new President goes to Malacañang following the 2016 presidential elections.

With the high monthly pay, the Philippine president would no longer worry about his retirement woes.

And this policy would bring in “the best and brightest” from Philippine society to work in government service.

These were stressed by Sen. Antonio  Trillanes IV, chairman of the Senate Civil Service and  Government Reorganization Committee, who told Senate reporters during the regular “Kapihan sa Senado” press forum that he would submit next week for floor debate the committee report on his Senate Bill 1689, also known as the proposed Salary Standardization 4.

Trillanes said he filed the bill by recognizing the significant role that current civil servants, and military and uniformed personnel play in nation-building and make the government compensation system competitive with the private sector.

Job creation

Senators also pressed the Aquino administration to intensify its job creation programs to address unemployment in the country.

Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada said President Benigno S. Aquino III should be aggressive in ensuring this year’s graduates – the new entrants to the country’s labor workforce – have adequate employment opportunities.

“As the government has successfully posted remarkable economic growth in the past years, what needs to be done is to ensure that the growth trickles down to the people and the masses as real benefits such as jobs,” said Estrada, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources.

“This is again consistent with the administration’s pursuit of inclusive growth, one that leaves no one behind,” Estrada added.

Senator Grace Llamanzares Poe, likewise, asserted the need for the government indemnify and assist displaced overseas Filipino workers.

Poe reiterated the need to pass Senate Bill NO. 2162, the measure which seeks to amend Republic Act 10022 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipino Act of 1995.

The bill practically seeks the government support to help illegally terminated OFWs be entitled to their remaining salaries for the unserved periods of their contracts violated by their employers, aside from reimbursement of placement fees with interest.

Women’s rights

Senator Ma. Lourdes Binay also sought passage of measures that aim to uphold women’s rights in the workplace and entitle them to better benefits.

“Long ago, workers demanded and got an eight-hour workday as well as just wages from their employers. Today, Filipina workers are still fighting for equal opportunities and benefits, and against discrimination and harassment in the workplace,” Binay said.

The CBCP official said the President need only to exercise his political will if he really wants to help the workers in the country.

“It’s only political will. They said there is economic growth but that growth should be inclusive because the workers don’t seem to benefit from it,” said Pabillo.

“Where is the so-called growth? It seems only the rich are the ones benefiting from it because it doesn’t trickle down to the poor,” he added.

Regular jobs pressed

Earlier, various labor and workers organizations mostly from a coalition called Nagkaisa called on President Aquino to make a strong policy pronouncement against the contractualization arrangement of employment.

“There are millions and millions of skillful and talented Filipinos in the labor force today who doesn’t have regular jobs. Majority of these workers are on ‘555’ (five months contract) or ‘Endo’ scheme of employment. As a consequence, they are exploited by employers and forever trapped in the vicious cycle of abject poverty. We wanted Pres. Aquino to make a strong policy statement towards ensuring security of tenure of workers by criminalizing and eliminating contractualization scheme in the country at the soonest possible time,” Daniel Edralin, chairperson of the Alliance of Progressive Labor Sentro said in a statement.

Aside from ending contractualization scheme, Nagkaisa also demands Aquino to enhance labor rights by deterring union-busting and prosecute extra-judicial killings labor organizers and journalists, and provide tax exemptions to workers among others.

According to Trillanes, the government should adopt an omnibus compensation and position classification system for civil servants, and military and uniformed personnel.

The improved salary scale provides the lowest government rank, Job Grade 1, with a base pay of P16,000 from the present rate of P9,000; and for military and uniformed personnel, the base pay ranges from P23,000 for a private to P282,800 for a four-star general.

Trillanes said the draft committee report might put a P600,000 to P800,000 monthly pay for members of the Cabinet and a relatively lower pay scale for other government positions.