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Security of tenure

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Mao Zedong, the communist leader, abolished private ownership and free enterprise in China and gave workers security of tenure as they were employed by state-owned companies. After four decades, its economy was in ruins, which ushered in the open market model of Deng Xiaoping

Today, in the Philippines, there is a raging issue on the Security of Tenure (SoT) soon-to-be law once the bill is signed by President Duterte.

In human terms, nothing is permanent and even marriage is no longer a till-death-do-as-part compact because of divorce or annulment.

The SoT bill imposes arduous rules of employment to give workers a permanent hold on their jobs, irrespective of their performance and viability of enterprises.

This defies economic reality and all of reality plain and simple. That claimed “permanence” can never be sustained because material resources, like all earthly realities, are not unlimited.

Employers are just as human as workers, and their assets are not infinite to sustain the permanence that is demanded.

It is akin to a life sentence for struggling employers to keep workers in the payroll permanently — or else. With various laws already in place — that mandate minimum wages, a lengthy process to dismiss erring employees, excessive paid leaves, bureaucratic processes for business closure — that impinge on the constitutionally guaranteed management prerogative, the SoT could be the proverbial last straw on the camel’s back.

Government wants to micromanage the business driven by a false assumption that employers are clueless and heartless in running their own businesses.

When President Ramon Magsaysay (my GUY) coined his political slogan, “Those who have less in life should have more in law,” he was unaware that the MSME (micro, small and medium enterprises) were equally marginalized as those whom he wanted to protect.

After the GUY’s era, lawmakers began crafting many bills — sadly, a number morphed into laws despite employers’ reservation — that are intrusive, meddlesome and harmful to business.

A labor lawyer quipped that government is like a mother-in-law, interfering and domineering, as he rephrased GUY’s slogan, “Those who have less in life should have more mothers-in-law.”

The entry of new investors who provide employment despite the onerous labor laws is a testament to the employers’ indomitable spirit of hope, adventurism, social responsibility and sense of nationhood.

Among all harsh provisions in the labor law, employers feel SoT is a fatal game-changing rule that could end business.

In the eve of SoT promulgation into law, there is a widespread anxiety across all sectors of business and industry and a cautious watch and wait before expanding or investing in new ventures.

The construction industry asks how long it has to maintain workers in the payroll after operations stop. A foreign chamber said that all its members will transfer their investments to other friendlier shores if the SoT law is too restrictive punitive, and prohibitive.

Among all harsh provisions in the labor law, employers feel SoT is a fatal game-changing rule that could end business.

Interestingly, while the Compendium on Social Doctrines of the Church talks about rights and duties of workers, nowhere does it say that it is the duty of employers to keep all workers permanently employed at all cost.

Stripped of its noble pretenses, the SoT bill is basically a recruitment tool for labor unions — with their dwindling memberships — who find difficulty organizing migrant but regular workers of service providers whom they insist should be regular employees of principals.

Unions want these workers in a single workplace to make it easier to catch them in the drive for membership and facilitate their indoctrination, registration and dues collection.

SoT is a self-defeating and misguided recruitment scheme for labor unions.

Presently, we have 99.6 percent of registered companies as MSME, mostly on marginal existence, while union members are reportedly less than 5 percent of the 43 million employees in the workforce. SoT will hasten the drop in employment and union membership.

SoT will bring chaos in the workplace and out of sync with global practices that will make us uncompetitive.

It is almost a step back to the time of Mao Zedong.

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