Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz yesterday said productive dialogue between the government and organized labor continues and transcends the time-frame of the Labor Day commemoration.
“Members of President Benigno S. Aquino III’s Cabinet, as instructed, continues to meet and dialogue with our workers even beyond the Labor Day commemoration, and this is a commitment that we have with them,” Baldoz said in response to the question why there is no scheduled dialogue between the President and labor on 1 May just like last year.
“Some of the Labor Day dialogue issues have already been resolved, and our dialogue partners acknowledge the government responses to these issues,” she added.
On the issue, for example, of protecting the income of minimum wage earners, Baldoz said the President has already signed into law R.A. 10653 last 12 February increasing the tax exemption of 13th month pay and other benefits to P82,000. The Bureau of Internal Revenue has also issued Revenue Regulation No. 1-2015 expanding the list of de minimis benefits to include CBA-derived and productivity incentives amounting to P10,000.
Baldoz said still up for discussion with the Development Budget Coordinating Committee is the issue with respect to the request of the labor sector for assistance to minimum wage earners, through the proposed Labor Empowerment Assistance Program (LEAP), in the form of rice, medicine, and other basic needs subsidy.
On labor participation in the crafting of an agro-industrial policy, Baldoz said this has been resolved with the Department of Trade and Industry agreeing in principle with labor to link investment incentives with compliance with labor rights and core labor standards.
“In the PH-European Free Trade Association (EFTA) FTA negotiations, the PH Panel agreed in principle to include labor provisions in the discussions. In fact, the DOLE has developed a template labor provision for the industry roadmaps and this has been officially transmitted to DTI. Labor is now participating in the consultative meetings on 13 out of 26 roadmaps which will constitute the National Agro-Industrial Policy and which should include an agriculture development roadmap to be formulated by the Department of Agriculture,” Baldoz said.
On the contentious security of tenure bill, for which labor demands a presidential certification as urgent, and on which the President has directed the TIPC to craft a consensus bill, Baldoz explained that since there has been no consensus at the TIPC, the DOLE, on its own, has crafted an alternative which consists of three separate legislative proposals.
One of the three, the Employment Relations Bill, has been approved at the technical executive committee and will be filed on 4 May. The other two bills, H.B. 5415 (Contracting and Subcontracting) and H.B. 5416 (Termination of Employment) are now at the technical working group of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Labor and Employment, along with nine security of tenure bills authored by party-list members.
“If a consensus bill emerges from the technical working group, the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office may recommend it for certification as urgent once the bill reaches the third reading. These bills will be calendared this month for discussion with the NEDA, DTI, DOJ, DOF, and the SSS,” Baldoz explained.
She also said the ILO Convention on Labour Relations in Public Sector (C 151) is already up for resolution, with the Department of Foreign Affairs officially saying that the Certificate of Concurrence of the Civil Service Commission covers all government agencies, and that only ratification, and not accession, is prescribed under the Convention
Also continuing is the dialogue on the issue of labor-related extra-judicial killings, with labor having been invited to participate as observers and resource persons on labor-related EJK cases in the Inter-Agency Committee (IAC) structures of Administrative Order 35. “Two cases out of 10 classified as labor-related EJK under A.O. 35 by the Inter-Agency Committee are already undergoing court trial,” Baldoz said.
Baldoz also said resolution might be in the offing on the issue of contractualization of labor in the public sector which labor demands to be scrapped. She said the Civil Service Commission has committed to issue a policy directive to address job order in national government agencies.
She also said she had deployed DOLE top officials nationwide to attend to workers concerns, observe Labor Day events, and dialogue with workers.
“Undersecretary Rebecca Chato is in Mindanao, Undersecretary Reydeluz Conferido is in Luzon and will be in Metro Manila for the biggest Labor Day Job and Livelihood Fair, and Undersecretary Ciriaco Lagunzad will be in Cebu to be with me and the President,” she said.
Finally, Baldoz shrugged off insinuations that the President is commemorating Labor Day in Cebu to avoid the sight of workers’ marches and rallies.
“Many seem to forget that under the administration, workers have become our development partners, not the nemesis. They are very much welcome to commemorate Labor Day through their own tradition of peaceful and orderly rallies and street marches. That’s guaranteed by the Constitution and our laws. The President is going to the territory of the ALU-TUCP, one of the country’s largest labor federations, so he is coming to a lion’s den, so to speak,” she said.