You are on page 1of 4

Labor Code needs to be updated

October 26, 2013 4:22 pm


by JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA
REPORTER

FOR more than three decades, the Labor Code of the Philippines, Presidential decree 442, has
been the governing law between employers and workers in the private sector. Over the years,
there have been changes as far the labor practices are concerned raising the need to amend
the code in order in order to ensure the protection of workers and employers.
Enacted during the martial law era of then President Ferdinand Marcos, the code is composed
of a preliminary title and seven books: pre-employment; human resources development
program; conditions of employment; health, safety and social welfare benefits; labor relations;
post employment, and; transitory and final provisions.
The Labor Code from a legal perspective seems to be fair and distinctly pro-labor because the
code was designed to provide protection to labor, promote employment and human resources
development and insure industrial peace based on social justice.
However, just like other laws, the Labor Code also has its flaws. The primary problem lies in its
implementation notwithstanding other flaws which legislators have been trying to address
though amendment.
Over the years there have been various amendments that have been introduced and
subsequently enacted into law but some lawmakers still believe that the law still needs to
undergo major overhaul in order for it to fully provide the needed protection of employees.
For Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, the current chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment &
Human Resource Development, the code needs a major overhaul in order to update, unify and
simplify government policies on labor, employment and human resource development.
But while waiting for the needed revisions on the code, reforms in certain areas needs to be
immediately addressed and that is why proposed legislations have been introduced by Estrada
while he was chair of the committee.
So far six labor related bills of Estrada have been enacted into law. These are:
RA 10151 or an act allowing the employment of night workers;
RA 10022 an act amending the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995;
RA 9547 an act strengthening and expanding the coverage of the special program for
employment of students;
RA 9481 an act strengthening the workers constitutional right to self-organization;
RA 9422 an act to strengthen the regulatory functions of the Philippine Overseas
Employment Administration (POEA);
RA 9347 an act rationalizing the composition and functions of the National Labor Relations
Commission; and
RA 10361 an act instituting policies for the protection and welfare of domestic workers
There are other legislations that have been introduced both in the Senate and the House of
Representatives that have yet to be passed and most of the proposals are aimed at promoting
the welfare of Filipino workers here and aboard.
But lawmakers are not the only ones who have been looking for ways to further improve the
labor code. Various labor organizations have been calling on the government to address major
issues being faced by workers in the private sector, particularly the rampant violations on the
code committed by employers.
Contractualization
From the standpoint of the Bukluran ng Mangagawang Pilipino (BMP), one of the countrys
biggest militant labor organizations, the Labor Code of the Philippines, is pro-labor however just
like other existing laws that problem lies on its implementation.
Contractualization is one of the major issues which according to BMP, must be seriously
addressed by the Aquino government because the practice deliberately denies workers of
security in terms of tenure and benefits.
Contractualization employed by most companies are already wreaking havoc on the lives of
Filipino workers and the labor sector has been confronted by this problem even from the
previous administration, but the Aquino government seems to be not doing enough to address
it.
Although the labor code allows the hiring of contractual workers, such practice should only be
done seasonally meaning when an employer needs additional workers who could work for a
short period of time like during Christmas season or harvest season.
However, some businessmen particularly those in the retail sector are circumventing the law
and hire contractual workers year round.
The continued practice of labor contractualization, wherein employees are given only five-month
contracts and just renewing their contracts the moment it expires, is one way small and large
businesses managed to avoid the law.
But the malpractice in not unique in the Philippines, in fact contractualization is also rampant in
other countries depriving workers of their right to job security.
In our country many contractual workers are in business process outsourcing (BPO), wholesale
and retail trade, manufacturing and construction.
According to the BMP, apart from being denied job security, contract workers are also prohibited
from joining labor unions and enjoy benefits given to union members.
Labor Unions
Under the law it is the policy of the State to promote the free and responsible exercise of the
right to self-organization through the establishment of a simplified mechanism for the speedy
registration of labor unions and workers associations, determination of representation status
and resolution of inter/intra-union and other related labor relations disputes.
But BMP and other labor organization in the country still consider the right of to self-organization
as one of the major issues in the Labor Code because of the risky and tedious process of union
organizing.
The code requires unions to submit voluminous documents for registration which is considered
totally unnecessary. Union leaders also find the Labor Code provision risky because they are
open to company retaliation and suppression of rights.
The problems still exists despite the enactment of the Republic Act (RA) 9481 or an act
strengthening the workers constitutional right to self-organization in 2007. The BMP claimed
that law is useless and it has not changed anything as far as the tedious process of registering
labor union is concern.
RA 9481 was enacted to relax and lessen strict and complex prerequisites for union recognition
and the grounds for its cancellation as well as the accreditation of labor federations, but it
seems that the implementing rule and regulations of the law somehow managed to dilute its
true intention.

The right to strike


Title VIII, book V of the Labor Code recognizes the right to strike in case of bargaining
deadlocks, and unfair labor practices committed by the employer. However, a trade union is
required to give advance notice, respect mandatory cooling off periods, and obtain the
agreement of a majority (50 percent plus one vote) of its members.
Labor organizations viewed the requirements as ways to dispel the right to strike and the
efficiency of the union to gain considerable advantages. It also prevents unions from carrying
out a strike because of the need to get the majority vote of its members no matter how grave the
issues are.
The harsh penalties for strikers especially its leaders who participate in a strike is also
considered as a way of discouraging workers from joining strikes, which is a right given to
laborers.
What needs to be done?
The Labor Code of the Philippines will be turning 40 on May 1, 2014, but the planned major
overhaul of the law seems to be out of the list of priority bills of either houses of Congress,
although lawmakers are expected to come up with their respective proposed legislation
amending certain provisions on the code.
As for militant labor groups amendments on the Labor Code should be introduced in order to
further promote the rights of the workers not only in the private sector but also workers in the
public sector.
BMP for its part is pushing for the absolute freedom to organize all workers in private sector and
employees in the public sector under unions and political organizations.
The group wants all restrictions that hinder the workers organizing efforts be removed and
criminalize the violations against labor laws and labor.
Also sought is the absolute right to strike for all workers in public and private enterprises, not
only for the economic demands but for political issues. These rights include general strikes and
sympathy strikes.
The government should also implement to the fullest the constitutional right to work of every
worker and their security of tenure and criminalize contractualization and labor flexibilization.
Also, companies which declare themselves bankrupt must open all accounts and documents.
The Labor Code of the Philippines is a law enacted to direct employers on how to treat their
workers properly while serving as workers defense against abusive employers in the private
sector.
Although there have been many laws enacted that defend workers against exploitation,
employees continue to suffer labor malpractices imposed by business owners.
The country has enough labors laws that will ensure the rights of all Filipino workers.
Unfortunately the lack of capability on the part of the government to make sure that business
establishments are complying with the code is the main reason workers continue to suffer.
In some cases, workers are aware of the violation of their employer but choose to turn a blind
eye for fear of losing their job.