IN August the House of Representatives unanimously passed House Bill (HB) 6152. The measure intends to compress the workweek by allowing Filipino employees to work beyond eight hours a day to complete the required 48 working hours in just four to five days.
HB 6152 aims to give workers and employers the option to refer to an alternative arrangement of working hours other than the standard eight working hours a day schedule. Under the bill, the normal workweek is reduced to less than six days, but the total number of working hours will remain at 48 hours.
The arrangement is not mandatory, though it recommends employers to discuss with their workers the alternative schedule. The compressed workweek is currently being allowed by the Department of Labor and Employment in some companies, as the scheme apparently gives workers and employers greater freedom in fixing hours of work that are compatible with the needs of the business and the employees’ desire for a balanced work-life.
The Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) backed the measure. Militant labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (May First Movement) opposed it. On the other hand, the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights branded HB 6152 as “retrogressive, pro-business and pro-capitalist, while silent about the detrimental effects that extended hours have on workers’ health and well-being.”
ACCORDING to Rene E. Ofreneo, labor and industrial relations professor at the University of
the Philippines, reducing working hours and compressing the workweek are not new policy reforms sought for by workers and employers. “Shortening the work hours or workweek is a proposal articulated by trade unions in a number of countries as a way of creating more jobs and easing workload,” Ofreneo told the BusinessMirror.
“Compressing the workweek from five to six days to four to five days by lengthening working hours per day is one solution for the horrendous traffic, and so is the old flexible work scheduling,” added Ofreneo, who also writes a column for the BusinessMirror. “Personally, I am not against both, so long as there is serious consultation with the workers and there is unanimous agreement among the parties.”
ON the other hand, ALU-TUCP Spokesman Alan A. Tanjusay said, although their group supports the passage of HB 6152, they are still open to discussing other options as to fixing the working hours, including reducing it.
“I am looking at the [proposal] as another option for workers to cope and become productive for themselves and for the company in a changing work environment and evolving business landscape imposed by the Internet age and climate-change phenomena,” Tanjusay told the BusinessMirror.
He said it is also good to look into trimming the total number of working hours, though he admitted it will not be easy to push for such a radical labor reform.
“Working eight hours in Philippines is entrenched in the psyche of Filipinos,” he said. “Eight hours [of] work in previous decades seemed a normal way of life for Filipinos.”
However, Tanjusay explained, with the rising cost of living, lowering value of wages and worsening traffic congestion into the equation and other factors, “eight hours work become too long of an ordeal.”
IN spite of all these, Tanjusay said Filipino workers continue to strive good for the economy, and this should be rewarded by giving to them what is due to them—a balanced work-life schedule.
“It’s a wonder to think though, that despite these burdens of the Filipino workforce, we were able to produce a very productive and very regionally competitive 6.9-percent average GDP in previous years, and we seem to be capable to do and produce more,” the labor leader said.
He added that, as much as the ALU-TUCP wants to push for reducing working hours, not much study has been produced about the policy reform. Tanjusay said it is important to conduct further assessment on the benefits and disadvantages of shortened working hours for it to gain ground and support in the circles of trade unions.
“This is where lies the main challenge [that] the proposed lesser working time poses,” Tanjusay said. “There has to be a thorough time and motion study to convince [the] government and employers to embrace lesser working hours.”
So far, the ALU-TUCP has not received any complaints on working hours, according to Tanjusay. But the group vowed it will look into such cases should a member-trade union raise the issue.
“It is high time to do a time-and-motion study on the current eight-hour work period given the new conditions not present when the [International Labor Organization] stipulated it to be decades ago,” Tanjusay said. “By then, we can make a convincing assumption that would pave the way to maintaining or changing the current eight working hours [a day requirement].”
To be concluded