Issue No. 9: Work Immersion Program for Senior High School Students
On October 21, 2017, DOLE D.O. No. 183 otherwise known as the “Revised Rules on the Administration and Enforcement of Labor Laws” Pursuant to Article 128 of the Labor Code of the Philippines was published in Philippine Star. This is the third major set of rules and regulations issued by the Secretary of DOLE since the issuance of DOLE D.O. No. 131-B otherwise known as the “Revised Rules on Labor Laws Compliance System” way back in June 2016, and DOLE D.O. No. 131 way back in 2013. As in the previous rules and regulations, this latest issuance is still pursuant to the visitorial and enforcement power of the Secretary of the DOLE. Notably, many provisions of DOLE 131-B, S. 2016 were lifted and codified under this new issuance.
So, what is significantly new? Unlike D.O. No. 131-B, S. 2016 where the implementation of the labor law compliance system may be done principally through Joint Assessment and Compliance Visit, among others, the modes of implementation are now referred to as Routine Inspection and Complaint Inspection, respectively. When we speak of Routine Inspection, it refers to the process of evaluating compliance with labor laws and social legislation JOINTLY undertaken by the labor inspector and the representatives of the employer and the employees using the prescribed Inspection Checklist. It is similar to Joint Assessment. On the other hand, by Complaint Inspection we refer to the act of validating compliance with labor laws and social legislation as when there is a SeNa referral, an anonymous complaint, or request from the NCMB to validate or verify violations. It is similar to Compliance Visit.
Notably, the new issuance describes the former “LLCO” or labor law compliance officer as “labor inspector”. This description is fitting and actually more consistent with the Labor Code which uses “labor inspection” whenever it speaks of the DOLE’s visitorial and enforcement power. At the start of every year, a list of labor inspectors shall be issued by the DOLE Secretary with general authority to inspect establishments in order to determine compliance with labor laws and social legislation. The listed inspectors will be assigned by the DOLE Regional Director of the specific establishments to inspect.
Although permissive in nature, qualified representatives of legitimate labor organizations including accredited integrated professional organizations, NGOs, and employer organizations may be authorized to participate in the inspection. Thus, perhaps, labor federations and trade unions like ALU-TUCP and employer organizations like PMAP, ECOP, PALSCON, etc., may be accredited. Deputizing these groups was intended to help the DOLE to ensure labor law compliance involving more than 90,000 establishments nationwide. DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello aptly said: “Deputizing labor is one of our strategies to fast track strict implementation of D.O. 174”. In other words, sectoral representatives may now be included in the conduct of inspection as long as they have met the prescribed individual qualifications and undergone the DOLE prescribed training.
Much emphasis has been placed on “labor contracting” in order to ensure compliance by both the principal and the contractor with DOLE D.O. 174, S. 2017. For example, if the labor inspector finds the existence of “labor-only” contracting during the inspection, he shall issue a Notice of Results, and explain the contents thereof to the representatives of the employer and the employees. If a party disagrees, he may note his comment on the Notice before affixing his signature. Posting of the Notice and service of such notice to the establishment by registered mail or private courier is required if any representative refuses to sign the Notice. The inspected establishment must institute its corrective actions within ten (10) days from receipt of the DOLE Notice of Results, or from posting thereof in a conspicuous place within the premises if there is refusal on the part of the employer to receive the results.
If the employer is willing to correct its violations, it has to submit documents to the DOLE Regional Director showing compliance thereof and submitting the list of workers absorbed. The DOLE Regional Director shall then verify or validate such compliance within five (5) days fom receipt of such proof of compliance. Note that employers may voluntarily regularize their employees by filing a letter of voluntary commitment before the DOLE Regional Office having jurisdiction over the workplace pursuant to Labor Advisory No. 06, S. 2017. On the other hand, if the employer does not correct its violations within the prescribed period, the DOLE Regional Office shall conduct a mandatory marathon conference/s which must be completed within thirty (30) days reckoned from the first conference. At these conferences, the inspected establishment may controvert the findings of the labor inspector. Failure or refusal to appear at these conferences despite due notice and without justifiable reason, shall authorize the DOLE Regional Director to issue a Compliance Order.
The DOLE Hearing Officer must submit his/her recommendation to the Regional Director within ten (10) days after termination of the mandatory conference. If for instance, the findings of the labor inspector have no basis in fact or in law, the DOLE Regional Director may order the dismissal of the case. But if such findings have basis, a Compliance Order shall be issued within twenty (20) days from receipt of such recommendation. Thus, if the DOLE Regional Director affirms the existence of “labor-only” contracting, he shall order the principal to regularize the workers of the “labor-only” contractor and compute the unpaid wages and other benefits due to these workers, indicating the names of said workers to whom payment is due, the period covered, and the formula used in the computation.
An appeal may be taken from the Compliance Order. However, the non-compliant principal and contractor are prohibited from terminating the employment of workers ordered to be regularized pending appeal. To ensure this, the concerned principal and contractor shall submit a notarized commitment that these “regularized” workers shall not be terminated pending appeal. If there is no appeal taken, the DOLE Regional Director shall issue a Notice of Finality, and thereafter, a writ of execution. (If you have any question, please feel free to contact Ms. Pinky Mante/Trustee-In-Charge, Atty Jeff Marquez & Mr. Jojo Cinco, Chair & Co-Chair, respectively, 2017 LabRel Committee).