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Philippines

Church backs campaign against casual labor contracting

Philippine workers launch signature drive to demand passage of law ending practice

Joe Torres, Manila

Joe Torres, Manila

Published: February 21, 2018 08:46 AM GMT

Updated: February 21, 2018 08:48 AM GMT

Church backs campaign against casual labor contracting

Father Erik Adoviso (center), director of Manila Archdiocese's Labor ministry, speaks at a media briefing in Manila on Feb. 20. (Photo by Roy Lagarde)

A signature campaign by Philippine labor groups to force the government to pass a law that will end "casual labor-only contracting" has received backing from members of the Catholic clergy.

"Labor-only contracting" is the practice of using agents or manpower agencies to recruit casual workers on behalf of a bigger business, so the latter can circumvent labor rules and avoid hiring regular employees, consequently making it easier to sack people.

In January, the Lower House of Congress passed a bill outlawing the practice, but several legislators opposed the proposed measure for its alleged limited reach.

The country's labor groups, however, wanted President Rodrigo Duterte to sign an executive order to end so-called contractualization, one of the campaign promises he made in 2016.

The May First Movement, a federation of workers' groups, vowed to collect a million signatures by May 12 to dramatize their call.

"We strongly convey to President Duterte that signing anything less than the labor sector's executive order against contractualization is unacceptable," said Renato Magtubo, spokesman of labor alliance Nagkaisa.

Magtubo said the failure of the president to sign a draft order presented to him by workers last week has been perceived as backing away from his promise to support the labor sector's demand.

Father Erik Adoviso, executive director of Manila Archdiocese's Ministry for Labor Concerns, assured the labor groups of church support for their campaign.

"[We are] one with the workers on the issue of contractualization," said the priest, adding that from the very start, the church has proclaimed that "the human person is more important than capital."

Father Adoviso, however, said that in the Philippines "the priority is capital over the dignity of a person."

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Duterte earlier asked labor groups to give him until March 15 to assess the draft executive order, which would prohibit labor-only contracting, and to explain it to employers.

The Labor Department earlier announced that it is targeting to regularize at least 300,000 contractual workers in 2018.

There are varied estimates as to how many from among employed Filipino workers are so-called "contractuals" or casuals. Consensus among labor groups is that at least half the country's 42.5-million labor force are casual workers.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority two-thirds of those employed are full-time workers.

In July 2017, full-time workers comprised 68 percent of the total employed persons, while the rest were part-time workers. 

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