Duterte's silence on workers' issues in SONA 2017 disappointing – labor unions

MANILA, Philippines – For the second time, President Rodrigo Duterte made no mention of his popular campaign promise of ending the illegal practice of labor contractualization in his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 24. 

Workers were left dismayed as they expected the President to announce that he would certify as urgent the proposed measures that seek to uphold security of tenure.

"For two hours, we were waiting for President Duterte to certify as urgent House Bills 4444 and 556 on security of tenure, but no announcement came," Nagkaisa Labor coalition said in a statement on Tuesday, July 25. 

"His silence is a great disappointment for workers as we were expecting him to announce the release of an executive order prohibiting all forms of contractualization."

Currently, there are 7 related bills filed in the Senate and 24 in the House of Representatives. Labor unions, as well as Senate labor and employment committee chairperson Joel Villanueva, have repeatedly called on Duterte to certify the measures as urgent. 

Villanueva previously told Rappler that they intend to pass the bill by yearend if the President gives his approval. (READ: Ending contractualization needs 2 urgent actions from Duterte)

Bills on ending contractualization were among the priority measures that National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director-General Ernesto Pernia submitted to the Senate when lawmakers resumed session on Monday. NEDA leads the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC).

Workers from the Partido Manggagawa group, a member of Nagkaisa, will go to the House on Wednesday, July 26, to urge lawmakers to push for the passage of the anti-contractualization bills. 

Prior to Duterte's SONA, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said more than 60,000 workers have been regularized since last year. 

Government workers, minimum wage

Nagkaisa also criticized Duterte's pronouncement of streamlining government bureaucracy, saying that contractual workers may be affected. 

The coalition said there are around 595,000 job order and contract of service workers in the government who are "overworked and underpaid." 

Meanwhile, leftist labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) hit Duterte for failing to address the petition to increase the minimum wage. 

"Workers' wages remain below living standards and fragmented in over a thousand wage levels. The lowest wage level, P235 in Region IV-B, does not even meet a quarter of the estimated Family Living Wage which is now pegged at P1,130 as of June 2017," said KMU. (READ: Is it time for a national minimum wage?

"Worse, Duterte's Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 has adopted the previous administration's wage-cut and wage-freeze policy through the Two-tiered Wage System that would further press down wages and freeze it to poverty levels," the group added. (READ: Labor union to wage board, employers: Try living on P357 a day– Rappler.com 

Patty Pasion

Patty leads the Rappler+ membership program. She used to be a Rappler multimedia reporter who covered politics, labor, and development issues of vulnerable sectors.