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Philippine church backs Duterte's labor policy

President seeking to crackdown on contract hiring that denies employees basic workplace rights

Joe Torres, Manila

Joe Torres, Manila

Published: August 03, 2016 07:24 AM GMT

Updated: August 03, 2016 07:26 AM GMT

Philippine church backs Duterte's labor policy

Workers call for a wage increase during a protest rally in Manila. (Photo by Rene Sandajan)

Church officials in the Philippines have expressed support for President Duterte’s aggressive drive against "end of contract" schemes companies use to deny workers labor rights.

"[These companies] should be shut down because 'contractualization' is against the law," said Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila, head of the Episcopal Commission on the Laity of the bishops' conference.

The practice should be stopped because people need permanent work and decent pay, he said.

Duterte, who has been in office for just over a month, threatened to shut down companies that implement contractualization — the practice of hiring employees on only five month contracts to circumvent labor laws.

Filipino workers complain of living continuously with uncertain futures because many are hired under contracts that are not usually renewed after six months.

Under the contracts, companies hire workers through employment agencies and pay them the minimum wage or less without social benefits such as paid leave, health care, retirement or separation pay.

When the contract expires, the worker becomes jobless and waits for the next contract or applies at another agency.

Another church official said "it's about time the government sided with the working class."

Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the bishops’ public affairs office, said Duterte's campaign is "a significant departure from past practices that saw our government seemingly kowtow to rich oligarchs to the detriment of the working class."

"It's time that a sitting president looked after the welfare of our workers," said the priest.

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In June, the Church-Labor Conference, an organization of labor and church groups, came up with ten recommendations on how the government can address the problem of short-term contracts.

The group proposed conducting a nationwide labor consultation to thresh out employment schemes that violate labor laws; generate proposals to address violations; and establish mechanisms to encourage workers’ participation.

The organization also urged the government to deputize labor leaders to conduct inspections and provide reports on violations of labor laws and regulations.

The group said the use of temporary labor contracts is the "gravest threat to our workers’ right to security of tenure."

The government has vowed to end by next year the practice of "labor contractualization" through a more stringent enforcement of the labor code.

Duterte warned large businesses that they would lose their permits to operate if caught abusing labor laws.

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