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Philippines: Enhanced labour inspectorate, strengthened labour law compliance

Labour inspection is more than just visiting workplaces. With the support of the ILO, the Philippines has been implementing labour inspectorate reforms and developing tools that can make a real difference in the lives of workers and employers.

Feature | 07 February 2018
By Minette Rimando, ILO Country Office for the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines (ILO News) – More than a decade ago, Elmer Riconalla, 53, made a career shift from electrical engineer to labour inspector for the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). He’s never regretted it since. Or almost never. 

Riconalla explains: “Many workers come to ask for assistance with their benefits, some of which are below minimum standards. Others have problems with their employment contract or working relationships. We advise on their rights and responsibilities.”

But some days are harder. Sometimes he’s denied entry to workplaces and when he travels to conflict-affected areas he can be subjected to threats. Once, someone drew a gun on him during a labour inspection. Yet, he has never thought of going back to his previous career. 

Lilian Solis, another Senior Labor Employment Officer based in Butuan City faces her share of challenges too. Regardless, she is happy to see improvements on compliance and a growing respect of rights at work. Solis has been at DOLE for 18 years, more than half of this time as a labour inspector. She too has been denied entry to workplaces and often has to travel to far-flung conflict-affected regions She has also faced attempts at bribery.

“We want to change perceptions about labour inspectors. We are here to help workers and employers as partners. We want to protect rights and duties from both ends to ensure balance and support employers in generating decent jobs,” Solis explains.

Currently, there are 574 labour inspectors covering 906,344 establishments. An ILO technical audit on labour inspection in the Philippines highlighted the need to increase the number of labour inspectors and enhance their capacity. Employers and workers should also be involved in the process to ensure the quality of inspections.

“We are improving the system. We are also enhancing training on safety and health at work. We are bringing in the experts, and the ILO is at the forefront. We want to have one truly competent labour inspectorate system that will provide updated information. The ILO is with us in building the competencies of labour inspectors,” said Director Teresita Cucueco of the DOLE Bureau of Working Conditions (BWC).

From paper filing to web apps

Since 2015, an ILO project funded by the United States Department of Labor, has supported DOLE in implementing labour inspection reforms and building the capacity of the Philippine Labour Inspectorate.

The project aims at enhancing the Labour Laws Compliance System – A Management Information System (LLCS-MIS) web and mobile application for labour inspectors like Riconalla and Solis. The application will address data and case management gaps, tracking compliance towards protecting workers’ rights and promoting industrial peace. 

It is a positive change for Riconalla, Solis and their colleagues, who used to complete their reports and search files manually. A web and mobile app will help the efficiency of labour inspectors and ultimately benefit workers and businesses.  

“Compliance can be tracked and monitored online. We can immediately identify missing documents and elements to check, validate and follow up for compliance,” Solis says. “Thanks to technology, it makes our work easier. It will just be click and go to generate reports. The ILO also brings in benchmarks and updates from other countries to improve the system.”

The enhanced Management Information System (MIS) application will also enable more targeted inspections and effective case management and enforcement of labour standards. It will include a wage calculator and a built-in camera to help ensure the accuracy of computing wage-related benefits. It can also be used offline while in hard to reach and vulnerable industries, and includes the tagging of contractor and subcontractor profiles as well as the inspection history. Such features will also help in the enforcement of existing laws against illegal contracting and subcontracting.

“These features will be critical as the Philippines’ Department of Labor and Employment focuses inspection activities and engagement with social partners on strategic compliance in challenging sectors such as export processing zones, agriculture, fishing, services, contractors and subcontractors, telecommunications, construction and private security agencies,” explains Cerilyn Pastolero, Programme Officer in the ILO’s Country Office for the Philippines.

Reforms involving workers and employers

Also part of the ILO-led project, the job descriptions of labour inspectors will be revised to focus more on core inspection work and ensure the quality of inspection visits. Targeted and responsive training programmes for labour inspectors will be developed and implemented, based on the new job descriptions.

The Project has also assisted in a review of labour inspection tools, rules and practices in line with International Labour Standards for an effective labour inspection.

“A strong labour inspectorate system is key to strengthening labour law compliance. The Philippines has taken positive reforms, involving employers and workers representatives. The implementation of the reforms with the supporting tools can make a real difference in the lives of workers,” says Director Khalid Hassan of the ILO Country Office for the Philippines.

Solis hopes that initiatives to implement reforms and to improve the labour inspectorate system will continue. She stresses that it is also vital to ensure the safety and health of labour inspectors, to practice voluntary compliance of firms and to strengthen laws on labour inspection. 

Meanwhile, Riconalla looks forward to stricter policies and greater compliance, including better legal protection and assistance for labour inspectors who also face prosecution threats in the course of their work. 

For over a decade as a labour inspector, he is glad to see all the changes and reforms on the labour inspectorate system in the country, which will ultimately contribute to achieving decent work in the Philippines.

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