The University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law/Law Center Workers and Employees Program (WEP) conducted via Zoom a series of roundtable discussions (RTDs) on 8, 22, 29 July, 30 September, and 25 November 2023 on the UP Law Center (UPLC) Proposed Revised Labor Code. The RTDs had the theme “Revised Labor Code of the Philippines : A Leap Into An Empowered Filipino Workforce”.
Consistent with its mandate under Republic Act No. 3870 to undertake technical studies and research in law, the UPLC spearheaded the revision of Presidential Decree No. 442, or the Labor Code of the Philippines, through its Labor Code Revision Committee. The Committee finished its proposed Revised Labor Code in June 2022, which has since been filed in the 19th Congress as Senate Bill No. 1311 (Senator Risa Hontiveros) and House Bill No. 5151 (Representative Rufus Rodriguez).
Participants in the RTDs represented the following government agencies: the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Legal Service, DOLE Regional Office Nos. III, IV-A, IV-B, V, VI, VII, IX, X, XII, Caraga and NCR, the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB), the Bureau of Labor Relations (BLR), the Employees’ Compensation Commission (ECC), and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). Also in attendance were representatives from the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), the Ministry of Labor and Employment (MOLE) of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC)-Workers in the Informal Sector Council, and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PHIC).
The following unions and labor organizations were represented: All U.P. Workers Union, Alliance of Workers in the Informal Economy/Sector (ALLWIES), All Workers Alliance Trade Unions (AWATU), Association of Genuine Labor Organizations (AGLO), Batangas Medical Chapter Employees’ Association, Crispin B. Beltran Resource Center (CBBRC), National DOH Employees Association (NADEA), Pag-aalay ng Puso Foundation, Inc., Philippine Metalworkers’ Alliance (PMA), Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panlegal (SALIGAN), Inc., and Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP).
Former Bayan Muna Representative Ferdinand R. Gaite, UP School of Labor and Industrial Relations (SOLAIR) Professor Emeritus Rene E. Ofreneo, as well as some members of the UPLC Labor Code Revision Committee, and the UPLC Institute of Government and Law Reform, which served as the Secretariat of the Committee, also took part.
The following suggestions to improve the UPLC Proposed Revised Labor Code were raised:
- Including the country’s policy on reciprocity within migrant networks;
- Allowing the DOLE or the DMW to increase the proposed amounts for capitalization and bonds of recruitment agencies;
- Allowing the appropriate agency to adjust penalties for illegal recruitment;
- Giving the DOLE the exclusive authority to issue employment permits to foreign nationals;
- Requiring the issuance of a foreign national employment permit before a work visa can be issued;
- Prohibiting emergency overtime work among healthcare workers, except in cases of force majeure;
- Limiting permissible job contracting to cases determined after consultation with the national tripartite industrial peace councils, other trade unions, federations, trade union centers, for inclusivity;
- Considering workers of contractors as regular employees of the contractor;
- Prohibiting labor-only contracting and imposing penalties;
- Defining the term “working children”;
- Including succeeding amendments to Republic Act No. 10361 as the governing law for domestic workers;
- Including succeeding amendments to Republic Act No. 7277 as the governing law for workers with disabilities;
- Allowing exemptions to establishments from setting up workplace lactation station;
- Providing flexibility as a nonrequirement for First aiders for hospitals and healthcare facilities.For micro establishments, engagement with RHUs and health centers may exempt them from the requirement for first-aiders;
- Replacing “non-hazardous” and “highly hazardous” with “low, medium, and high-risk”;
- Including Inter-government coordination and cooperation committee in Republic Act No. 11058 or the Occupational Safety and Health Law;
- WorkProtect Act of 2022 proposed by the ECC, replacing Book IV, Title II on Employees Compensation and State Insurance Fund;
- Including the definition of bargaining unit under existing rules and jurisprudence;
- Removing the list of bargaining unit members requirement, for registration of independent unions;
- Including registration of workers’ associations;
- Reducing the proof of affiliation of at least 10 locals to 3 locals required to establish a federation or national union;
- Removing of all grounds for cancellation of union registration except for voluntary dissolution by the members;
- Including the right to peaceful concerted activities, including the right to strike in accordance with law, among the rights of legitimate labor organizations;
- Including the phrase “in accordance with the rules on the civil service” in the right of employees in the public service;
- Including the rights to collective bargaining and negotiations and to engage in peaceful concerted activities among the non-abridgment of rights to self-organization;
- Removing administrative proceeding as a prerequisite for criminal cases on unfair labor practice;
- Including under unfair labor practices interference with, restraint, or coercion of the rights to collective bargaining and negotiations and to engage in peaceful concerted activities;
- Clarifying that the procedure in collective bargaining under the Proposed Revised Labor Code does not apply to the public sector, which is instead covered by civil service law;
- Clarifying that the agreement on economic provisions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement entered into after the third year should not exceed the five-year term of the representation aspect;
- Prohibiting, as unfair labor practice, the employer from filing anything in certification election proceedings;
- Granting Mediator-Arbiters and Election Officers the power to subpoena the list of employees and job descriptions, and granting discretion to call employers as witnesses on the issue of eligibility of voters;
- Including failure to appear in two (2) consecutive conferences in the voluntary arbitration despite notice as a waiver of the right to be heard;
- Granting subsidies for voluntary arbitration to unions and labor organizations;
- Exempting from the 15-day cooling-off period, strike vote, and strike ban the strikes called because of dismissal from employment of any union officer which may constitute union-busting since the existence of the union may be threatened, without prejudice to conciliation and mediation proceedings;
- Clarifying that the majority required for a strike vote is a simple majority;
- Penalties for refusing to readmit workers after the SOLE declared assumption of jurisdiction over a strike or lockout;
- Removing dismissal or termination from employment as a consequence of illegal strike;
- Defining “public health authority” in cases of termination due to disease;
- Cover labor organizations and workers’ associations along with unions on gender-sensitivity training or orientation;
- Separate comfort rooms for different genders, clean restrooms, and safe drinking water; abd
- Allocate to gender-related seminars and trainings the five percent (5%) of the budget of each government agency for gender and development (GAD) under Republic Act No. 9170 or The Magna Carta of Women.
WEP will be holding in 2024 a series of round-table discussions to again review WEP’s proposed revisions to the UPLC Proposed Revised Labor Code , in anticipation of any deliberations that Congress may call on the measure.