In Jade Castro's 2007 film Endo, he chronicles the lives of two contractual workers who find love while working for different establishments in the Philippines. In it, we discover the hard lives contractual employees face. Every five months, they transfer companies, working minimum wage jobs like waiting tables and manning the cash register. By the end of the movie, the love story of the characters echo the short length of time they were employed.
What is "endo?" It's Filipino slang, short for end of contract. Others call it 5-5-5.
In the Philippines, it is mandated by law that after six months of working for a company, an employee automatically becomes regularized. In Article 281 of the Labor Code, it says that
Probationary employment shall not exceed six (6) months from the date the employee started working, unless it is covered by an apprenticeship agreement stipulating a longer period. The services of an employee who has been engaged on a probationary basis may be terminated for a just cause or when he fails to qualify as a regular employee in accordance with reasonable standards made known by the employer to the employee at the time of his engagement. An employee who is allowed to work after a probationary period shall be considered a regular employee.
Regularization means the employee will finally get to enjoy the benefits of a regular employee like leaves and 13th month pay, among many other things.
Many companies try to avoid this by the scheme of endo - only hiring workers for five months, ending their contracts to avoid having to regularize them. Then they hire them again for another cycle of endo, as reported by here by Inquirer.
Most victims of endo are minimum wage earners and student workers.
Is it even legal?
According to a news report by Interaksyon, the labor code prohibits labor-only contracting which frees employers from providing workers with benefits (e.g. health and social security). It is only legal as long as contractualization does not fall within the category of "labor only contracting," or a company only having contractual employees.
This means that establishments like hotels, malls, and restaurants can practice endo without repercussion as long as they have regularized employees.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz has moved to strike down unscrupulous employers who practice the illegal form of endo by issuing Department Order 18.
“Through Department Order No. 18- A, which I issued to amend D.O. 18 on subcontracting, we have whittled down the number of registered sub-contractors registered under D.O. 18-02 from 17,000 to only 5,581 as of March 2014,” Baldoz claimed.
“What remains are legitimate subcontractors who comply with labor laws and are registered with the DOLE under the requirements, terms, and conditions of DO 18-A,” she said.
Despite the move to crack down on illegal practices, endo—in its legal and illegal form—still sits on a morally gray area.