Bukidnon labor hearings yield 9 recommendations

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/4 Nov) — The report on the Oversight Committee hearings conducted by Bukidnon’s Sangguniang Panlalawigan in July cited nine recommendations, including total prohibition of child labor, to ensure compliance of Philippine labor laws in its agriculture plantations.

In a copy obtained by MindaNews, the report cited that agricultural companies and their labor contractors are required to include provisions in their labor supply contracts the total prohibition of child labor, freedom of association, and supply of safety gadgets and equipment to laborers.

It also included the requirement of posting of cash bonds by contractors and procedure for collection from then on in case of delayed salaries or underpayment.

The requirements also included the strict compliance with the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board-mandated minimum wage regardless of the mode and manner of payment of wages to the workers.

Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zaire Jr. called the hearings to verify persistent reports of labor law violations allegedly committed by labor contractors in the banana and pineapple plantations in the province.

The report, drafted by lawyer board member Jay Albarece, cited that the alleged violations were “usually on delayed payment of salaries, underpayment of wages, non-compliance with labor standards, presence of child laborers, absence of SSS, Philhealth and Pag-Ibig Benefits and the lack of security of tenure.”

MindaNews obtained the draft in September when Albarece said it was not yet official.

Albarece told MindaNews Wednesday they have crafted a proposed ordinance entitled “an ordinance for the protection of workers and upliftment of working conditions in Bukidnon and providing penalties for the violations thereof”.

He said it was passed after first reading and is now subject to hearings at the committee level.

The oversight committee’s recommendations included the filing of the appropriate resolutions, ordinances and/or measures, preferably with penal provisions.

The other recommendations included requiring the companies to shorten and simplify their billing procedure.

It also required that only contractors with sufficient capital and investment be allowed to engage in service contracting in the province.

The committee urged the Department of Labor and Employment to conduct time and motion studies to verify if the volume-based labor supply contracts comply with the RTWPB-mandated minimum wage.

Among the recommendations is the requirement of obtaining franchise from the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) for the hauling of farm workers.

The committee recommended banning the collection of transportation fees from workers and to ensure the compliance with labor laws and other social legislations.

The recommendations also included encouraging companies to hire regular workers instead of contractual, agency or other itinerant workers.

To ensure monitoring, the committee proposed the creation of a provincial labor compliance monitoring team that will conduct regular inspections and respond to complaints by workers.

The committee concluded that the most common complaints by contracted workers were classified into six categories — delay in the payment and underpayment of wages, non-compliance of other labor standards benefits, unnecessary deductions from take home pay, transportation or hauling related complaints, safety gadgets and equipment issues, and non-remittance of Social Security System, Phil Health and Pag-Ibig contributions.

The committee report cited that the delay in the payment of wages is attributed to companies with lengthy billing procedures and to contractors with lack of funds to advance the payment of wages to workers in case of delay in the billing process.

They also reported that underpayment of wages, non-compliance of other labor standards benefits, non-payment of and the remittance/non-coverage of SSS/Philhealth/Pag-Ibig benefits usually occurred in volume-based, rather than head-based contracts.

The vehicles used in the transportation of workers, the committee found out, do not have certificates of public convenience or franchises from the LTFRB. They are the usual six-wheeler cargo trucks with drop-side bodies, tarpaulin roof and usually without seats. Some contractors were reported to have collected transportation fees from the workers.

Albarece’s draft of the report cited that the recommendations and conclusions were culled from answers given by the multinational company representatives and their contractors during the two-day investigation as well as the labor-supply contracts they submitted to the Oversight committee. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)