Sunday, October 17, 2010

Labor slams Philippine Trade chief's proposal to clip security of tenure

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 17, 2010) - Filipino Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo has drawn criticism for his proposal to attract fresh investments by cutting short the right to security of tenure enjoyed by workers.

"The right of workers to security of tenure is guaranteed not just by any law, but by the Constitution itself. Secretary Domingo should read the Constitution," said former Senator Ernesto Herrera, secretary-general of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines.

Herrera portrayed Domingo's proposal as "unimaginative," and likened it to everyday calls for government to spur business activity by simply freezing wages.

"Government should stop using workers as sacrificial lambs in the drive to lure new capital," said Herrera, former chairman of the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources development.

Instead, Herrera urged government to reduce administrative red tape; lessen crime and corruption; build up the country's human resources; ensure stable supply of electricity nationwide; and check unfair trade practices, including smuggling and copyright infringement, that dampen investments.

Domingo earlier sought the easing of the Labor Code's provision on security of tenure. "I think we are one of the few countries with a security of tenure provision," he said.

Security of tenure means the right to continue in employment and the right to be protected against dismissal except for just and authorized cause under conditions required by law.

"The stricter the law, the less competitive we are. We have to relax some of our labor laws to be more competitive," Domingo said.

"What Secretary Domingo wants in effect is for employers to have even more leeway in arbitrarily throwing workers out of their jobs, so that they may be replaced wholesale with new and cheaper labor," Herrera said.

The former senator said the law's security of tenure provision could not be amended without violating the Constitution.

He cited Article XIII, Section 3, paragraph 2 of the Constitution, which reads as follows: "It (the State) shall guarantee the rights of all workers to self-organization, collective bargaining and negotiations, and peaceful concerted activities, including the right to strike in accordance with law.

They shall be entitled to security of tenure, humane conditions of work, and a living wage. They shall also participate in policy and decision-making processes affecting their rights and benefits as may be provided by law."

To give flesh to the mandate of the Constitution, Article 279 of the Labor Code reads as follows: "Security of tenure. - In cases of regular employment, the employer shall not terminate an employee except for a just cause."

"An employee who is unjustly dismissed from work shall be entitled to reinstatement without loss of seniority rights and other privileges and to his full back wages, inclusive of allowances, and to his other benefits or their monetary equivalent computed from the time his compensation was withheld from him up to the time of his actual reinstatement."

Article 277 of the same Code also requires the employer to provide due process to every worker facing termination. Once removed, the worker may contest the validity of his dismissal before the labor court. The burden of proving that the discharge was for a valid cause rests on the employer.

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