How much is your labor’s worth?

By Atty. Eduardo T. Reyes III

  1. In London. A painter who went by the name of James McNeill Whistler displayed his paintings among which is “Nocturne in Black and Gold”. Famous art critic John Ruskin observed that the prices are absurdly high, and exclaimed: “The labor of two days, is that for which you ask two hundred guineas!” To this, the painter retorted: “No, I ask it for the knowledge of a lifetime.”

Indeed, how much is our labor’s worth? Should it be computed by the hour? Per day? Or month?

First, there are two general kinds of workers: an employee and an independent contractor.

In turn, there are two kinds of independent contractors: legitimate job contractors and independent contractors who possess unique skills and talents. “Our laws and jurisprudence recognize two types of contractors: legitimate job contractors and independent contractors who possess unique skills and talent”. (Chrisden Cabrera Ditiangkin v. Lazada E-Services Philippines, Inc., G.R. No. 246892. September 21, 2022).

First kind of independent contractor. The first kind refers to “permissible job contracting”. It refers to an arrangement whereby a principal agrees to put out or farm out with a contractor or subcontractor the performance or completion of a specific job, work or service within a definite or predetermined period, regardless of whether such job, work or service is to be performed or completed within or outside the premises of the principal. X x x Thus, permissible job contracting involves the contracting out of work, job or service, while labor-only contracting involves the contracting out of labor”. (Elba J. Caballero v. Vikings Commissary and/or Jackson Go, G.R. No. 238859. October 19, 2022).

Yet, it was held that “A certificate of registration issued by the Department of Labor and Employment is not conclusive proof of the status of the contractor as an independent contractor or the legitimacy of its operations. To determine whether the contractual relationship between the principal and contractor is one of permissible job contracting or the prohibited labor-only contracting, the totality of circumstances must be considered, and all features of the relationship evaluated according to the criteria set by law. An employee repeatedly and continuously hired for the same work under short-term contracts for at least one year is considered a regular employee of the principal. (Elba J. Caballero v. Vikings Commissary and/or Jackson Go, ibid).

Second kind of independent contractor. “The second type of independent contractor consists of individuals who possess unique skills and talents which set them apart from ordinary employees and whose means and methods of work are free from the control of the employer. Examples can include a columnist who was hired because of her talent, skill, experience, and feminist standpoint, a basketball referee who has special skills and independent judgment, and a masiador or sentenciador who had expertise in cockfight gambling. In these instances, there is no trilateral relationship but a bilateral relationship because the independent contractors are directly engaged by the principal.

With this type of contracting, there is no employer-employee relationship between an independent contractor and the principal, and their contracts are governed by the Civil Code. When the status of the employment is in dispute, the employer bears the burden to prove that the workers are independent contractors rather than regular employees”. (Chrisden Cabrera Ditiangkin, v. Lazada E-Services Philippines, Inc.,ibid).

Human labor especially those that involve deft skills and/ or thinking, should be well appreciated and not denigrated. Martin Luther King, Jr. once quipped: “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence”.

Labor therefore must not be computed solely in terms of the number of hours worked. Rather, it should also be the ‘knowledge of a lifetime’ that must be reckoned.

(The author is the senior partner of ET Reyes III & Associates– a law firm based in Iloilo City. He is a litigation attorney, a law professor and a law book author. His website is