The 1989 Labor Code amendments, also known as Herrera Law, has made Filipino workers more vulnerable to exploitation and suppression for 25 years according to a labor research group.
Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER) said Herrera Law created the legal grounds for contractual work arrangements that cheapened workers’ wages and for the Assumption of Jurisdiction (AJ) which is Labor Department’s signal fire for police-military crackdown of workers’ strikes.
“Ironically, Herrera Law constitutes Filipino workers’ worst nightmare in a period supposedly marked by restoration of democracy following the EDSA 1 uprising. For the first time, the law legalized the practice of contractualization that has become a grave threat to workers’ right to job security and decent wages,” EILER executive director Anna Leah Escresa said.
Escresa explained that under Articles 106-109 of the Herrera Law, the Labor Secretary is given the power to issue orders that will promote hiring of contractuals and other non-regular workers such as the current Department Order 18-A issued in 2011.
“Herrera Law legalized the plague that is contractualization. What was initially a work arrangement for janitorial and other casual jobs became the normal labor arrangement that cuts across all economic sectors from manufacturing to wholesale and retail trade up to business process outsourcing (BPO),” Escresa said.
Contractualization and other forms of flexible employment also contribute to the employment of child labor in plantations, as the “pakyawan system” is massively used to evade hiring of regular agricultural workers. Under the system, child laborers are forced to help the family meet the production quota.
Moreover, the Herrera Law also infringes on workers’ right to strike and peaceful assembly. “The Law’s Article 263 authorizes the Labor Secretary to issue an Assumption of Jurisdiction (AJ) order that will serve as basis for the swift deployment of police and military forces in companies with labor disputes – a legal government crackdown that was demonstrated during the Hacienda Luisita massacre where seven striking farmworkers were killed and dozens injured,” Escresa said.
“Assumption of Jurisdiction is clearly a fascist government instrument to quell democratic actions of unions. It has clearly no place in a democratic society we all aspire to live in,” she added.
EILER also noted that Herrera Law provided the framework for tripartism in the labor sector, a mechanism that uses bogus social dialogue among representatives from labor, government and companies to implement anti-labor policies.
“With all the ill effects of Herrera Law to workers’ right to security of tenure, right to strike and decent wages, it is but timely for the government to repeal the law and replace with a genuinely pro-labor Labor Code,” Escresa concluded.