Back to square one? Senators eye refiling of anti-endo bill

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 26) — Senators are not giving up on ending labor contractualization following President Rodrigo Duterte's rejection of the Security of Tenure (SOT) bill.

Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III on Friday said he will ask colleague Joel Villanueva, chairman of the chamber's labor committee, to refile the measure which seeks to prohibit business entities from hiring workers on a contractual basis.

Reacting to the President's veto, Sotto said, "I'm crestfallen but that's how democracy works. And Congress being dynamic, can refile and repass the bill."

Villanueva, who was one of the main sponsors of the bill in the upper chamber, committed to continue the decades-old fight to end all forms if "illegal contractualization" or "endo."

"Endo" or "end of contract" is a highly contested form of contractualization widely practiced in the country – workers are hired for not more than five months, so employers don't need to regularize them on the sixth month as mandated by the Labor Code. It strips millions of workers of all the benefits granted to regular employees by law.

"We will persevere, until we see that no worker will involuntarily lose his or her job because of contractualization," Villanueva said in a statement.

Under the Constitution, a presidential veto will return the bill to where it originated, in this case, the Senate. The chamber can reconsider the measure by a vote of two-thirds of its members. It shall then be sent to the House of Representatives, which can enact the law also by a two-thirds vote. The Senate leadership has, however, said it will refile the bill instead.

Duterte's veto comes a day before the bill lapses into law. Earlier, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said it submitted recommendations and adjustments to the SOT bill, which requires businesses to directly hire employees, effectively banning the practice of outsourcing workers through manpower agencies.

Under the enrolled bill, companies should absorb or regularize all workers. It also states that all employees, except those on probationary status, will be treated like regular, including project and seasonal employees, entitling them to benefits received by regular workers.

Several business groups and firms earlier requested the President not to enact the bill, saying it could discourage investors from venturing into the country, resulting in job losses.

While the NEDA did not disclose the recommendations it had made, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia stressed that "we have to be sure that the law benefits not only workers but also the employers."

READ: 'End endo' bill needs tweaking – NEDA

Businessmen vs. workers

The Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) on Friday stressed that what the country needs is not a new law, but the enforcement of existing measures against illegal contractualization

"On our part we will enjoin our members na talagang tulungan ang gobyerno na matanggal nang final 'yang endo dahil bawal naman talaga ang endo sa mga batas e. Tutulungan namin sila na ang implementation ay mapagbuti para once and for all mawala na ang endo sa ating bansa," ECOP President Sergio Ortiz-Luis said in an interview with CNN Philippines.

He said the businessmen have always been against endo, but stressed they do not approve of the SOT bill because it prohibits even the legal contractual labor that is "accepted anywhere in the world."

The Federation of Free Workers (FFW), however, said existing measures have failed to end endo.

"Nami-miss po ng Pangulo yung kanyang historic decision sana na simulan nang tuldukan yung endo," FFW President Sonny Matula said.

He said while labor groups also had "misgivings" about the SOT bill, it was a good start because it gives a clear-cut definition of labor contracting and imposes higher penalties to employers who engage in illegal contractualization and abuse of their workers.

Duterte certified the bill as urgent as early as September 2018, allowing lawmakers to fast-track its passage. Labor groups have called on him to fulfill his campaign promise of putting an end to endo.