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Congress approves security of tenure bill

In its last three weeks, both Houses of the 17th Congress approved the proposed Security of Tenure Act, which is expected to end illegal contractualization or the end-of-contract scheme commonly known as “endo”.

The Senate, with a vote of 15-0 on Wednesday, May 22, 2019, approved Senate Bill No. 1826, also known as the End Endo bill, on third and final reading.

The Senate gave its approval a day after House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo reminded Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III about the need to pass the End Endo bill, a campaign promise of President Rodrigo Duterte and one of 12 measures that comprises his priority legislative agenda.

Arroyo noted that the House has passed 11 of these 12 bills and it is prioritizing discussions on the re-introduced coco levy bill to pass this in the last three weeks of the 17th Congress.

In a statement, Senate Bill 1826 principal author Joel Villanueva said a bicameral conference committee will be convened to reconcile the Senate and House versions of the bill. The House version was passed in March 2018 yet.

“The next phase of our struggle to end endo is in the bicam. We are determined to pursue this, especially that this measure has been certified urgent by the Executive,” Villanueva said.

The Senate version of the bill reiterates the prohibition on labor-only contracting, and clarifies ambiguities in existing laws that have allowed employers to tiptoe around the ban, Villanueva said.

Villanueva at the helm of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment, and Human Resource Development. Prior to yesterday's passage in the upper house, similar forms of the bill languished in the committee level untouched.

Under the measure, labor-only contracting exists when any of the following instances occur:

• The job contractor merely supplies, recruits, and places workers to a contractee.

• The workers supplied to a contractee perform tasks/activities that are listed by the industry to be directly related to the core business of the contractee.

• The contractee has direct control and supervision of the workers supplied by the contractor.

The bill also classifies workers under four employment types: regular, probationary, project, and seasonal.

Project and seasonal workers have the same rights as regular employees like the payment of minimum wage and social protection benefits, among others, for the duration of their employment.

"The provision trims down the employment arrangements and addresses the current practice of misclassifying employees to prevent them from obtaining regular status," Villanueva, who chairs the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources, said.

Like the House version, the Senate bill requires all contractors to obtain a license to engage in job contracting from the Department of Labor and Employment.

This will allow government to scrutinize a contractor’s capacity to adhere to existing labor laws and regulation, and gauge their ability to provide for their employees.

The measure also establishes a mechanism that empowers industry tripartite councils to determine roles that can be outsourced.

The industry tripartite council will provide a venue for stakeholders--government, employee representatives, and industry bodies--to discuss and determine jobs which can be contracted out to a job contractor.

"The industry tripartite council may set a positive or negative list of functions or task that are or are not directly related to the principal business. Having an industry-determined listing will help minimize disputes among employers and affected workers," Villanueva said.

Both versions of the bill stipulates that no worker can be dismissed without just or authorized cause, and due process.

“We listened to the concerns of various stakeholders, and took these into account in putting together this bill. We believe this measure protects the interests of all parties concerned,” Villanueva said. (Ventures Cebu)

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