Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz yesterday bared that tripartite-led efforts to amend/revise the 40-year old Labor Code of the Philippines are underway and on the right track, but emphasized the importance and critical support of the House of Representatives and the Senate of the Philippines for the efforts to be successful.
“Across administrations over a span of forty years since it was approved by executive fiat, the Labor Code of the Philippines has not been subjected to revision, except by piecemeal amendments. There were attempts to introduce omnibus amendments, but the process was long and difficult, hence impractical,” Baldoz observed.
Because of this reality, she said she had created a Tripartite Labor Code Reform Committee in 2011 through A.O. 375, which set out to review documents from earlier initiatives, along with development plans, including the Philippine Labor and Employment Plan, 2011-2016.
“Our approach to modernize the Labor Code is to advocate for priority legislation. I think this is feasible. I think it is working,” she said, as she bared that in the 15th Congress, two reform initiatives, one, on dispute settlement and another, on tripartism, have been enacted into laws—R.A. No. 10396, or the Single Entry Approach (SEnA) Law, and R.A. 10395, or the Tripartism Law, which amends Article 275 of the Code.
Another reform measure, R.A. 10151, which lifted the prohibition of night work for woman, was passed in the 15th Congress. Still another reform measure that has gained the assent of Congress and signed by President Aquino III into law is the landmark R.A. 10361, popularly known as the Kasambahay Law.
In the current 16th Congress, Baldoz said the legislative priorities were drawn in accordance with the agreement between the Committee on Labor and Human Resources Development of the Senate and the Committee on Labor and Employment of the House of Representatives.
“The two Committees had agreed to prioritize measures which have not drawn major conflicting views so as to arrive at optimum results given the limited work calendar. The DOLE supports priority legislative measures covering only certain provisions of the Labor Code,” Baldoz said.
She enumerated these measures as follows:
(1) On Apprenticeship (HB No. 1594, HB No. 2227 and SB No. 136, entitled An Act Reforming the National Apprenticeship Program and Providing Regulatory Standards for Training and Employment of Apprentices).
(2) On Public Employment Service (HB No. 47, HB No. 827 and SB No. 1386, or An Act Amending the Public Employment Service Office Act of 1999).
(3) On Labor Market Test (HB No. 5470 and SB No. 2760, or An Act Amending Articles 40 and 41, Title II of the Labor Code of the Philippines, As Amended).
(4) On Program for Employment of Student (HB No. 5469, or SB No. 2759 or An Act Amending Certain Provisions of Republic Act No. 9547).
(5) On JobStart. (HB No. 5468, An Act Institutionalizing the Nationwide Implementation of Jobstart Philippines Program and Providing Funds Therefor seeks to institutionalize the JobStart Philippines program).
(6) On Magna Carta of Seafarers (HB Nos.122, 3754, and 3895 and SB Nos. 21, 673 and 350, An Act Instituting the Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers).
(7) On Strengthening Compliance with OSH Standards (HB No. 2226, or An Act Criminalizing Non-Compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Standards). There has been also filed SB No. 1368, or An Act to Govern Occupational Safety and Health in the Construction Industry, which establishes OSH standards in the construction industry, and HB No. 2471, or An Act to Provide for Uniform Warnings on Personal Protective Equipment for Occupational Use.
(8) On Labor Law Compliance System (HB No. 4659, or An Act Fostering a Culture of Voluntary Compliance with Labor Laws through a Labor Laws Compliance System, Amending for the Purpose Articles 128 and 129 of Presidential Decree No. 442, as amended, Otherwise known as the “Labor Code of the Philippines”).
(9) On Productivity Incentives (HB No. 561, or HB No. 2193, An Act Strengthening the Productivity Incentives Act of 1990).
(10) On Union Registration (SB No. 23 and HB No. 2540, or An Act Further Strengthening Workers’ Right to Self-Organization, Amending for this Purpose Articles 234, 235, 236, and 237 of Presidential Decree No. 442, otherwise known as the “Labor Code of the Philippines”, as Amended).
(11) On Assumption of Jurisdiction (HB No. 5471, or An Act Rationalizing Government Interventions in Labor Disputes by Adopting the Essential Services Criteria in the Exercise of the Assumption or Certification Power of the Secretary of Labor and Employment, and Decriminalizing Violations thereof, Amending for this purpose Articles 263, 264 and 272 of Presidential Decree No. 442, otherwise known as the Labor Code of the Philippines, as amended).
(12) On Voluntary Arbitration (SB No. 562, or An Act Further Strengthening Voluntary Arbitration as the Preferential Mode of Labor Dispute Settlement).
(13) On National Labor Relations Commission (HB No. 4529, or An Act Providing for Appeal of the Decisions of the National Labor Relations Commission to the Supreme Court, Amending for this Purpose Articles 223 and 224 of the Labor Code).
(14) On Security of Tenure (SOT) (HB Nos. 124, 573, 2419, 2955, 3559, 3560, 4227, 4396 and 5140 and SB Nos. 845, 853, and 1393). These proposed measures seek to amend the provisions of the Labor Code on contracting and subcontracting arrangements, employment and termination of employment.
About the latter, given the highly contentious features and political underpinnings of the pending SOT bills, Baldoz said the DOLE has proposed an alternative measure composed of three separate legislative proposals.
The first is HB No. 5415, or An Act Specifying the Requirements of Legitimate Contracting/Subcontracting Amending for this purpose Articles 106 to 109 of Presidential Decree no. 442, otherwise known as the Labor Code of the Philippines, as Amended.
This bill enumerates the requirements and elements of legitimate contracting or subcontracting. It allows industry-based contracting and subcontracting arrangement through tripartite consultation. It shifts from registration to licensing of contractor or subcontractor, but retains the solidary liability of the principal employer with the contractor or subcontractor for unpaid wages, labor standards, and other welfare benefits of the workers. It recognizes trilateral relationship and includes provisions on liabilities of the parties, and rights of workers including the right to self-organization.
The second is a draft Employment Relations Bill which has the following features:
(1) all employees enjoy the right to security of tenure and shall not be dismissed without cause and due process;
(2) criteria for the existence of employer-employee relationship;
(3) all employees are regular except those under probationary employment, or those industry-specific work arrangement as may be determined by the Secretary of Labor and Employment through tripartite approval under a written contract of employment which must not be less than six months but not more than one year specifying the rights, terms and conditions of employment not lower than the minimum standards set by laws or regulations; and
(4) probationary employment which shall not exceed six months.
The third is HB No. 5416, or An Act Defining the Causes of Termination of Employment of Workers Amending for this purpose Articles 282 and 283 of Presidential Decree no. 442, otherwise known as the Labor Code of the Philippines, as Amended.
This draft measure replaces analogous causes as just cause of termination, with “act or omission specified in the company rules and regulations or collective bargaining agreement”. It allows termination based on authorized causes subject to upfront payment of one-month separation pay and submission of competent proof of loss.
Baldoz said that except for the SOT bills, all of the above reform bills have gained tripartite consensus, having been endorsed by the NTIPC.