By Beting Laygo Dolor i Contributing Editor

A campaign promise made by then candidate for President Rodrigo Duterte may soon become reality when the Senate passed a bill last week that would ban the practice of ‘endo,’ or end of contract employment.

There’s just one catch. The Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), among others, says that ending the short term employment of hundreds of thousands or even millions of Filipinos would do more harm than good.

By a vote of 15-0, the Senate approved Senate Bill 1826, better known as “End Endo bill.”

If passed into law, the security of tenure of employees is assured as private companies will no longer be allowed labor-only contracting.

The End Endo bill had been certified as urgent by President Duterte.

If passed into law, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will be caught in a quandary. While the President has been adamant in seeking a law to end endo, the Trade Secretary earlier aired his misgivings. He said he was afraid an end to endo would scare off investors.

Finance Sec. Carlos Dominguez also opposed a House version of the End Endo bill, which hews closely to the Senate version.

The next step is for the House and Senate to come up with a unified version, which is seen as an eventuality considering the House is predominantly allied with the Duterte administration.

The country’s largest labor group, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), said it was preparing for either the Finance or Trade departments to take steps to derail the new law.

TUCP Vice-president Louie Corral said they would be watching over the bicameral conference scheduled for this week that would merge the Senate and House versions.

TUCP said it was perplexing why the large employees groups would try to strike down the proposed law, as it would only restrict and not abolish the practice of endo.

There will be “no more compromise,” according to TUCP spokesman Alan Tanjusay.

The country’s largest malls and manufacturers resort to the practice of hiring workers for six months or less, usually to address the need for more workers during peak seasons such as the Christmas and New Year holiday periods.

Under Philippine labor law, any person who works for more than six months in a company must be deemed employed on a permanent basis. Otherwise, that employee is let go.

In the case of some of the biggest malls, workers are given six-month contracts and are terminated before the sixth month, only to be re-hired after a month or two. The country’s biggest employer is known to engage in the practice which, while not illegal, is considered by labor groups as exploitative of workers.

ECOP President Donald Dee took the cudgels for the companies engaged in endo. “You cannot change the business model all over the world,” he said, adding that if the country wanted to dissuade investments then banning endo was the way to go.

“It does not make sense. It’s unfair,” Dee said.

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry along with the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (AmCham) agreed with the ECOP position.

“A modern economy requires flexible work arrangements,” said AmCham senior adviser John Forbes.

Based on estimates by labor organizations, no less than 15 million Filipinos are employed on an endo basis. Not all of them will be saved if the bill is signed into law by President Duterte, which could happen before he delivers his State of the Nation Address in July.

Even if the End Endo bill becomes law, sub-contracting jobs will still be allowed. Companies can still farm out jobs to third parties, which can then hire workers on a contractual or per project basis.