One of the biggest labor groups in the country on Monday reminded the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) that it has no business of “invading” the job of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
Lawyer Jose Sonny G. Matula, president of the Federation of Free Workers (FFW), told the BusinessMirror that the “DTI should not invade the domain of the DOLE [because] it has no expertise on labor standards and labor relations.”
Matula’s statement was FFW’s reaction on the “official position” of the DTI about the job-contractualization issue that was published in the BusinessMirror on March 1.
Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said he is also inclined to defend the interest of businessmen and that the DTI would probably block a proposed executive order (EO) that intends to end contractualization.
Lopez was furnished a copy of the Nagkaisa Labor Coalition’s proposed EO for the DTI for inputs.
He argued that “what we know is that legitimate labor contracting is allowed in the Labor Code. It is prohibited when it is undertaken to circumvent existing law, specifically workers’ right to security of tenure.”
“[T]he DTI has always been of the position that what is important is we encourage and attract investors so that our country can generate more jobs,” he said.
Reacting to the DTI chief’s position, Matula said the DTI “should focus itself on measures against rising inflation, rather than keeping cheap labor under the policy of precarious work arrangements like contractualization.”
Renato Magtubo, chairman of Partido Manggagawa (PM), agreed with FFW’s stand, adding that the “DTI should impose its weight against rising inflation rather than keeping the labor price low under the policy of contractualization.”
Magtubo, who is also the spokesman of the Nagkaisa, pointed out that his group has strongly turned down the DTI’s take on contractualization, thus, Lopez must stop asserting its intervention in the labor issue.
Matula, a veteran labor leader and labor laws professor, reminded Lopez that it is not only the FFW that is against the position of the DTI in the contractualization, but the whole labor movement from moderate to left-leaning groups.
“The labor movement has repeatedly rejected this contractualization as [instrument] of enticing investors to continue putting up their businesses in the country since this is contrary to the guarantee to the right to security of tenure enshrine in the fundamental law. Direct hiring, not the new policy, but the fundamental principle under the law. This is the only way workers can actually enjoy their constitutional right to security of tenure,” Matula said.
He added the FFW long-held view and belief that “labor is not a commodity for sale through labor contractors. The rule should be, as its name denotes, manpower agencies and other service providers should merely be treated as agents of the principals. The principal is the employer.”
Matula said that this is the fundamental reason FFW and other labor groups have been pushing for an EO to rectify this anomaly and correct many years of injustice imposed upon millions of workers.
President Duterte has promised that he will release the EO by March 15.
But it appears that Duterte will follow the line of thinking of Lopez, as he already said few days ago that he could not force the businessmen on what to do with their workers.
According to Matula, “[w]ith all due respect, what the DTI wants is to continue to enslave our contractual workers or perpetuate the norm of contracting out almost all jobs in the guise of management’s exercise of their prerogative.”