Labor Department short of 2,000 officers to inspect contractualization

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 3) — The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) only has a little over 500 inspectors to look into working conditions in hundreds of thousands of businesses, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said on Thursday.

"Yun pa ang problema... We are supposed to inspect almost 900,000 business establishments throughout the country. You know how many inspectors we have? We have... 532," Bello told CNN Philippines' The Source.

He added that while they were able to gather about 55 volunteers for training, they need "at least 2,000 more."

Inspectors, also called Labor Laws Compliance Officers, are personnel who are authorized to conduct assessments and investigations for safety and health standards in compliance with the law.

They are also in charge of making sure establishments regularize their employees.

During his campaign, President Rodrigo Duterte promised to end contractualization, or the end-of-contract ("endo") practice. It entails hiring employees for a short period of time without company benefits.

The President has since been slammed for failing to deliver his promise. He was met with worker protests, most recently during the State of the Nation Address last July 24.

Bello reported that government has managed to regularize 61,000 contractual employees in Duterte's first year. However, he believes that about 60 percent of the Philippines' 40 million workforce — or 24 million workers — are still hired on a contractual basis.

Legal contractualization

Bello also maintains that it is difficult to end contractualization entirely because there were some arrangements that are accommodated by the law.

"You have to [distinguish] between what is legal and what is illegal contractualization. Under the present set-up, there are contractual arrangements which are allowed by law," said Bello.

These set-ups include tapping agencies for positions like security guards and janitors, as well as project-based and seasonal workers. Project-based workers are those who are hired to fulfill a demand for a certain project, such as a large construction project, while seasonal workers fill a demand during a certain time of year, such as sales men or sales ladies during Christmas.

Bello however emphasized that department stores or other companies that hire workers outside of peak seasons need to regularize their employees.

The Labor Secretary signed Department Order 174, or rules on contractualization, last March.

The order, which was still met with disappointment from workers' groups, bans the "555" practice — an arrangement where contracts expire on the fifth month, but employers renew the contract again to avoid regularizing the employee in their sixth month.