Job security is a top concern of almost every Filipino worker; it's right up there along with living wages and functional healthcare services, among other things. While job security is what every employee wants (not just Filipinos), the lack of it is more prominent in the Philippines where the disdainful labor practice known as 'endo' prevents probationary employees from becoming regularized.
It's a shameless display of chronic abuse of a legal loophole. But, the new Security of Tenure Bill, or House Bill 6908 -- and its Senate equivalent which is the End of Endo Act (Senate Bill 1116) -- aims to change all that.
It's no surprise, therefore, that job security is among the top issues that a fair trade call center aims to resolve.
With the impending passing of these bills and the cooperation of a more egalitarian employer (like a fair trade outsourcing company, for instance), this systemic malpractice can be rectified with greater success compared to fixing it with a department order or a presidential decree.
But, how does this new Security of Tenure bill guarantee income and job security when all others may have failed? What are the changes in the bill that assure employees of getting a stable job rather than a temporary one? Here are five ways that House Bill 6909 (or Senate Bill 1116) can deliver on the promises of an impact sourcing business.
#1 Relievers of absent regular employees and probationary and seasonal workers are treated as regular employees.
In this new anti-endo bill, probationary and seasonal employees and relievers for workers on leave shall receive the same benefits and wages as regulars do from Day One. They shall have the same rights as regular workers.
This will obviously continue for probationary employees who become regular, but ends for relievers who must leave when the absent regular employees returned to their jobs. And, it will be effective until it's not peak season anymore and the contract has ended for seasonal employees.
Not only that, relievers, probational and seasonal workers will be prioritized for hiring for open regular positions.
#2 Fixed-term employment and subcontracting of jobs already contracted out are prohibited.
While it's acceptable for any company to hire relievers and seasonal workers, employers are not allowed anymore to hire workers for a fixed duration. It's not legal anymore for an employer to hire someone just to terminate them a day or two short of their 6th month.
It's also unacceptable for companies to hire a contractual worker for only 12 months with the promise of becoming regular once the contract ends. That person becomes a regular employee in the eyes of the law once they've worked for 6 months with the same company.
#3 Employers cannot easily terminate their employees without due process.
This provision is already enshrined in the Philippines' Labor Code. But in the context of the endo practice, it's become a sharper weapon to wield against wily employers who exploit the legal loophole that allows them to fire a probationary employee the minute they break the rules or fail to pass their performance review.
If an employee did break a rule, they must go through the stages. This means they get a verbal first warning, then a written second warning, and a final warning before they were let go). And, if an employee truly didn't pass their evaluation, they must be given a preliminary review on their 3rd month together with a self-improvement plan before their performance is finally assessed for regularization.
#4 Job contractors are required to get a license from DOLE.
Just like manpower agencies that send overseas Filipino workers abroad, local job contractors must register with the Department of Labor and Employment or DOLE and get a license to operate. It's an added layer of regulation in an otherwise already robust Labor Code.
In the context of the endo practice, the license will make it harder for unscrupulous contractors to exploit Filipinos in low-skilled jobs in various sectors, such as construction, agriculture, and food services. A license will also give the Security of Tenure bill some bite when there's a need to prosecute an erring agency.
#5 Employees who were hired directly for necessary or core jobs are assured of income and job security.
In the outsourcing industry, only three types of employment statuses are accepted: probationary, regular and seasonal. Relievers usually come from the same workforce as those employed by the same company, and they're either probationary or regular employees.
BPO companies normally lose 50% of their new hires every year. Training a new batch of call center agents every 3 to 6 months can be very costly. Hence, they do everything, from promising higher wages and giving away bigger, more attractive perks just to get the best and brightest from the crowd to stay with them longer.
According to Rep. Emmeline Aglipay-Villar of the Democratic Independent Workers’ Association party-list group, the Security of Tenure bill can pave the way towards increasing the number of middle-class Filipinos and bridging the gap between the rich and the poor. This is great news for the more than 2 million Filipinos who will benefit from this measure to amend the Labor Code.