Joint circular on hiring of COS, JO workers issued

MANILA-- A joint circular issued by the Civil Service Commission (CSC), the budget department and the Commission on Audit (COA) last June 15 clarifies the government's hiring of workers under the contract of service (COS) and job order (JO) schemes.

The issuance of Joint Circular No. 1, series of 2017 was prompted by President Rodrigo Duterte's directive to put an end to contractualization at work, the rising number of COS and JO employees, and the numerous complaints the commission has received on the matter, assistant director of the CSC Human Resource Policies and Standards Office, Atty. Jennifer Timbol, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in an interview.

The circular's new guidelines are aimed at preventing abuses from being committed against COS and JO workers, Timbol said.

She recalled that during the Arroyo Administration, government agencies were allowed to hire seasonal, emergency, or intermittent workers for short-duration projects, as well as consultants who have an expertise not available in government agencies or local government units (LGUs).

Their employment was supposed to be terminated at the end of the project but they were continuously rehired, she pointed out.

It was also observed later on that COS and JO employees were assigned to perform the duties of personnel with regular positions in government, she said.

Timbol estimated that there are 500,000 COS and JO workers across the country, about 300,000 of whom are working for LGUs.

She said the joint circular defines the COS and JO workers' functions, their privileges and the limitations of their employment, which were not spelled out under the old and very general guidelines.

It also discusses in detail the specific requirements or qualifications for COS and JO employees, as well as their payments, she said.

Under Joint Circular No. 1 (2017), government agencies may avail of outsourced services -- such as janitorial, security, consultancy and other support services -- through a contract of service for a maximum of one year. Workers hired through this institutional contract will remain as employees of the service provider.

The circular states that government agencies may also enter into COS with individuals as consultants for a maximum period of one year, renewable at the option of the head of the procuring entity, without exceeding the term of the latter. This however will be limited to consultants, learning service providers and/or other technical experts to undertake special project or job within a specific period.

The hiring of JO workers meanwhile will be limited to emergency or intermittent work, such as clearing of debris on roads, canals, waterways, etc. after natural/man-made disasters/occurrences; other trades and crafts, and manual tasks, such as carpentry, plumbing, painting, electrical and the like, according to the circular.

The joint circular noted that COS and JO employees should not in any case, be made to perform functions which are part of the job description of the agency's existing regular employees and should not be designated to positions exercising control or supervision over regular and career employees.

Since they are not covered by civil service law, their work is not credited as government service and they do not enjoy the benefits of government employees, such as leave, PERA, RATA and 13th month pay.

The circular however states that COS workers shall be paid the prevailing market rates while JOs shall be paid wages equivalent to the daily wage/salary of comparable positions in government and a premium of up to 20 percent of such wage/salary. They can avail of social security benefits as self-employed workers.

According to the circular, the agencies may renew individual contracts of COS or JO workers until Dec. 31, 2018 and that they will be given priority in the appointment by the agency to its vacant positions so long as they are eligible and qualified for the position, based on civil service laws.

Based on section 90 of the General Provisions of the 2017 General Appropriations Act, it says, government agencies will review their functions, systems and procedures, organizational structure and staffing to determine the appropriate manpower complement for their programs.

Creation of permanent positions may be considered for regular functions, while hiring of casual or contractual personnel may be considered for projects and activities that are temporary in nature, the circular reads.

On top of that, Timbol said, the joint circular provides that heads of agencies and responsible officers could be charged before the Ombudsman, Office of the President or the CSC if they are found to have violated the provisions of these rules and regulations.

Meanwhile, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is pushing for a priority bill on the government's rightsizing program that aims to abolish executive agencies with overlapping or redundant operations and functions.

Senate Bill 1337 on rightsizing the national government to improve the delivery of public services proposes that the organizational structure of agencies be rightsized and the appropriate staffing mix shall be determined based on the skills and competencies required to effectively and efficiently carry out the agency mandate and functions.

The bill states that department secretaries and agency heads shall prepare and submit to the DBM the detailed organizational structure and staffing of their respective departments and agencies within 90 days after the approval of the proposed executive issuances by the President.

Affected personnel, whether hired on a permanent, temporary, casual or contractual basis and with appointments attested by the CSC, shall be entitled to retirement benefits and separation incentives, it says.

Timbol said once this bill is passed, government agencies will have a chance to determine the exact positions to be created, and the number employees to be hired, with the corresponding budget required.

This, she said, would set the tone on how COS and JO employees should be hired.

By 2019, the COS and JO employees to be hired are those who are truly needed, she said, adding that this would prevent the hiring of such employees from being abused.

The circular, which has the force and effect of law, takes effect in July, and COS and JO employees may renew their employment until December 2018.

Once the circular is fully implemented in January 2019, all government agencies are expected to hire all COS and JO workers deserving to stay or qualified, to work on a regular status, said Timbol.

Source: Philippines News Agency