Extending labor probationary period

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    THERE are bills emanating from the House of Representatives that somehow bolster the charge that Congress is full of inanities, and the men and women of the House whose only concern is to push their own vested interests are better left with an abolished chamber.

    We are ready to name a few of these proposed measures, but first, allow us to discuss this one first. This doozie takes the cake in the field of silliness: that one about imposing a two-year probationary period for new hires to become permanent employees.

    Rep. Jose Singson Jr. of Probinsyano Ako party-list has filed a bill extending workers’ probationary period to two years. Singson claimed the measure would allow workers “to enjoy continuous employment for more than six months” and as such would effectively fight the “endo” policy which organized labor has been struggling against for years. Singson added that his bill would allow employers to grant regular employment status to workers at any time within the two-year period.

    Both presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III opposed outright the said bill, which they thought goes about the Duterte administration’s policy of supporting the labor sector.

    Panelo said the administration has always been against attempts to circumvent the six-month probationary period so it won’t support the proposal to lengthen it. Bello, meanwhile, said the Department of Labor would recommend to the President to veto the bill if it is passed by Congress because it may be abused by employers.

    Secretary Bello is correct in rejecting this legislative proposal, for as the secretary said, it could result in more cases of illegal contractualization. Delaying a worker’s assurance of permanent employment is not in line with the government’s policy of security of tenure, he pointed out.

    President Duterte has been on the receiving end of criticisms from labor leaders for his failure – almost 4 years into his term – to make good his campaign promise of ending “endo” or labor contracting. While he has vowed to protect the workers’ security of tenure, he vetoed a bill that would have removed ambiguities that allowed employers to sidestep rules against labor-only contracting.

    Duterte had taken the side of businessmen and employers, saying “you do not make it hard for the capitalist also to move.”

    If this Singson bill is passed by the House and a counterpart bill is approved in the Senate, it would again be a litmus test of Duterte’s adherence to his avowed pro-labor stance. Will he pass or will labor be disappointed anew?