Philippine President Duterte signs order banning 'illegal' short-term labour

Ending short-term labour was one of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's many campaign promises.
Ending short-term labour was one of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's many campaign promises. PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday (May 1) signed an executive order banning employ-on-contract practices, even as tens of thousands of workers marked Labour Day with a huge rally to call him out for reneging on a key campaign promise.

Ending short-term labour was one of Mr Duterte's many campaign promises.

Two-thirds of the country's 39 million to 40 million workforce are on short-term contracts, according to a 2016 government estimate.

Mr Duterte said in his Labour Day speech: "To all non-compliant and abusive employers who are engaged in labour contracting, your days are numbered."

The order, which he signed as he began his speech, bans "illegal contracting and subcontracting". It also prohibits "any undertaking to circumvent the workers' right to security of tenure".

The practice is popularly called "endo", an abbreviation of "end of contract".

"I remain firm in my commitment to end 'endo' and illegal contractualisation," Mr Duterte said.

The Philippines allows employers to hire workers to meet demand at peak times. These contracts typically span five months to avoid a six-month rule that would require employers to make an employee permanent.

In 2011, the labour agency allowed companies to engage contractors to supply workers for short-term jobs, helping spread the practice of "endo" to job-intensive sectors such as retailing and manufacturing.

Mr Duterte admitted his order "would not be enough", and that Congress would have to pass a law that would cover more workers.

Labour leaders said the order was a disappointment.

"It's a betrayal of our covenant, and an insult to workers," said May One Movement (KMU) chairman Bong Labog.

Labour groups had chafed at government plans to narrow the scope of the ban on "endo" to contractors that supply workers, and exclude large shopping mall chains and factories.

The KMU said in a statement: "Workers are outraged over Duterte's rejection of our demand to end all forms of contractualisation. We are not buying this desperate and repeated ploys to quell the labour sector's growing protests and unity against his failed promises."

The Employers Confederation of the Philippines said its members would comply with the order.

"It is a well-crafted (order) that balances the welfare of labour and allows legal contractual employment, which is a globally accepted form of work arrangement," said the group's president Ed Lacson.

Some 10,000 workers marched to Malacanang, the seat of the government, on Tuesday to press their demand for a total ban on short-term labour.

The KMU said it expects over 100,000 workers to join the rally by day's end.