Labor Code @ 50: nothing to celebrate

May 1, 2024

Today, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. marks his second Labor Day in office by celebrating the 50 years of the country’s Labor Code (PD 442), signed into law by his father. the dictator. in 1974.

We at the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) say: “There is nothing to celebrate about the 50 years of the country’s Labor Code. The law’s positive provisions are not enforced and many of its provisions are being used to legalize violations of workers’ rights (Art 263 g..), which have increased with the onslaught of neoliberalism in the 1990s.

(1) The Philippine State has long abandoned the Labor Code’s declared policy that “The State shall… promote full employment… and free trade unionism” The State has in fact reduced its role in job generation to becoming a mere labor agency. It promotes the interests of foreign investors in the name of development.

The number of the unemployed and underemployed is increasing, according to independent think-tank Ibon Foundation. Instead of providing jobs to everyone, the State has helped maintain a huge reserve army of labor that has kept workers’ wages low.

The Labor Code itself created the legal framework for the the country’s labor export program, which subjects Filipino labor to exploitation abroad while the State refuses to develop industries and agriculture in order to create decent jobs in the Philippines. Labor export became an employment strategy far from being a stop gap measure causing not only brain drain but family destruction.

(2) The State has abandoned the Labor Code provision that “The State shall assure the rights of workers to… just and humane conditions of work.” It has instead consistently offered cheap and repressed labor to employers inside and outside the Philippines. Who will forget the 72 workers who were burned to death in Kentex….

Fifty years after the Labor Code’s enactment, the minimum wage in the has been fragmented through regionalization. The minimum wage in Metro Manila, the highest in the country, has stagnated since 1989 while the minimum wages in the country’s regions have decreased, again according to Ibon research.

(3) The State has also not assured Filipino workers’ right to “security of tenure.” The Labor Code and its amendments codified contractualization. It made the distinction between the legal job contracting and the illegal labor-only contracting or LOC.

Contractualization has often meant various labor rights violations: denying workers their benefits, retrenching them despite many years of service when they form unions, and generally subjecting contractual workers to muvg poorer working conditions and lower wages.

(4) The State has not assured workers’ right to self-organization and collective bargaining. Fifty years after the Labor Code was enacted, the country is facing a rapidly declining unionization rate.  It has the lowest union density,[in where?] or the percentage of unionized workers compared to all wage and salary workers, the lowest number of CBAs, violations of CBA provisions, and the lowest number of strikes in history. The Labor Code has been weaponized by the State and employers, especially the biggest and foreign ones, to achieve these outcomes.

Some labor scholars argues about union affairs, the Labor Code of 1974 signals greater government intervention and therefore a regression compared to the Magna Carta of Workers of 1953.

Pres. Marcos Jr is adding insult to injury in celebrating the Labor Code in its 50-year anniversary. What we need is an honest-to-goodness evaluation of the Labor Code that puts labor rights and the State’s responsibility for these rights at the center. What we need is a truly pro-labor Labor Code that will protect workers especially amidst intensifying labor rights violations brought about by neoliberal economic policies.###