The Senate Committee on Labor, Employment, and Human Resources Development chaired by Senator Joel Villanueva started on Thursday its inquiry on labor issues arising from the regularization of employees, particularly those concerning NutriAsia, PLDT, and some other big companies.
Among those present in the hearing are officials of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), representatives of PLDT, NutriAsia, cooperative groups, industry leaders, unions and labor groups.
“We invited the parties to hear their respective sides on the issue. We want to craft a balanced policy that will address the loopholes of the current system and benefit not only the workers, but also protect the interests of employers,” Villanueva said.
At the start of the hearing, Villanueva asked the respective representatives of unions of NutriAsia and PLDT regarding their status of employment under the said companies.
Reynante Gudinez, representative of Nagkakaisang Manggagawa ng NutriAsia, said that he is working at NutriAsia’s Marilao plant for 10 years. His job revolves on the weighing of ingredients. For Gunidez, he believes that his job at the plant is “crucial for the company.”
However, Gudinez was not hired directly by NutriAsia but employed by its toll packer/service provider, B-Mirk Enterprises Corporation. His salary was also being cut down by B-Mirk because of his contributions in SSS, Philhealth, PAG-IBIG, among others.
Asked by Villanueva if they have a supervisor who oversees their job in the plant, Gudinez said that they have a supervisor who is a regular employee of NutriAsia.
“This is where the issue of control comes in. These workers are hired by a contractor but their work is being supervised or controlled by the principal employer. This could possibly be a factor that says that a company is engaged in labor-only contracting,” Villanueva said.
Meanwhile, Dan Joshua Nazario, President of PLDT Organization of Worker and Employees for Rights, also shared a similar experience. He is working for PLDT as a Customer Service Representative for 2 years but he was hired by its contractor, SPi CRM.
Like Gudinez, his salary was also being cut down due to mandatory contributions and for 2 years, his salary has not been adjusted. He shared that there are employees like him in the company who have worked for almost 10 years but have not also received a salary adjustment. He stopped working when the PLDT terminated its contract with SPi CRM after the DOLE ordered the PLDT to regularize more than 7,000 workers working under its contractors.
But according to PLDT HR Head Menardo Jimenez, Jr., the DOLE issued a cease and desist order against SPi CRM and cited this reason why workers like Nazario were laid-off.
On the other hand, NutriAsia President and COO Angie Flaminiano said that the DOLE affirmed B-Mirk as a legitimate contractor. Asked if what jobs they think qualify as core business, Flaminiano said that they only consider jobs relating to the formulation of its products and manufacturing/ cooking, and those that involve confidentiality, proprietary information, and trade secrets as types of jobs which constitute their core business. Flaminiano said that jobs like that of Gudinez are not part of their core business.
“From what we have heard, it clearly shows that workers under a manpower supplier whether cooperative or not do not have security of tenure. This is the very reason why we are pushing for the immediate passage of our Security of Tenure bill—to ensure that workers are not abused and their rights are not circumvented through disguised employer-employee relationship under agency or service provider,” Villanueva emphasized.
“On the part of businesses, we have also established that there is a dire need to have a clear policy that defines labor-only contracting,” the senator added.
Addressing DOLE, Villanueva asked the steps they have taken during labor inspections that led to the issuance of regularization orders to some companies including NutriAsia and PLDT.
“Madaling makita ang general labor standards at OSH (Occupational Safety and Health) standards, pero sa (labor-only contracting) LOC, we have to admit na iba ang competency requirement dito. Maliwanag ba ang mga gabay or guidelines sa pag-verify kung LOC o hindi ang isang work arrangement? At ano-ano ang mga gabay na ito?,” Villanueva asked DOLE.
Dr. Ma. Teresita Cucueco, DOLE Bureau of Working Conditions Director, said that a company engages in labor-only contracting if they have no tools, capital, or control to the workers that they supply to the principal employer. However, she admitted that the template per industry that would clearly determine a company’s engagement in labor-only contracting is yet to materialize as this is still being discussed by a tripartite council.
“Ang bottomline po rito: Maiiwasan po sana natin ang karahasan na ito kung malinaw ang ating kasalukuyang Batas Paggawa. Layunin po natin dito ang makalikha ng batas na magbibigay proteksyon at seguridad sa trabaho sa ating mga manggagawa habang may pagsisiguro na may susundin na malinaw na patakaran ang mga negosyo sa ating bansa,” Villanueva said.