Senators on Tuesday, April 30, 2019,  have renewed their call for enhanced workers’ rights, pressuring the administration to push through with their promises to the Filipino labor sector. NICEFORO BALBEDINA

Senators on Tuesday have renewed their call for enhanced workers’ rights, pressuring the administration to push through with their promises to the Filipino labor sector.

This they did a day before the international celebration of Labor Day on Wednesday, May 1, 2019.

Endgame for Endo

The day before labor day, Akbayan senator Risa Hontiveros called on her fellow senators to set an “endgame” to the country’s contractualization policy, drawing parallelism to a recent Hollywood blockbuster film.

In a press release, Hontiveros called for the passing of the Security of Tenure Bill which seeks to “protect workers from unscrupulous and discriminatory contracting and sub-contracting and strengthen the security of tenure of workers.

“It’s time (for) the government (to) avenge the Filipino workers for this unjust and inhumane labor policy,” she said.

“Contractual workers are more vulnerable to health risks than regular workers as contractualization is a scheme meant to avoid paying workers the social and health benefits that regular employees are entitled to,” she said, “Thus, contractual workers are forced to endure precarious working conditions and pay for their own health expenses when they get sick or injured at work.”

The opposition senator who is currently the chair of the Senate Committee on Women explained that the bill will help in closing the gender gap in the labor sector, citing data from the International Labor Organization (ILO) that claims that woman in several ASEAN countries, including the Philippines, tend to have a bigger share of vulnerable employment than men.

“Filipino women have a lower labor participation rate compared to men, and those fortunate enough to be employed are more exposed to vulnerable employment like contractual jobs. Mas mahirap makakuha ng trabaho ang mga kababaihan. Kung makahanap man ng pagkakakitaan, kadalasan, ito ay mga trabahong kontraktuwal,” Hontiveros added.

Foreign worker influx

In his message on Labor day, senator Joel Villanueva emphasized the protection of the Filipino’s jobs and rights amid the rise of illegal foreign workers in the country.

“In the hearings we conducted, we’ve laid out how foreigners circumvented our labor and immigration laws to seek gainful employment to the detriment of Filipinos,” he said, “Ngayong Labor Day, umaasa tayo na tutuldukan na ng ating mga kinauukulan ang pagdagsa ng illegal foreign workers dito sa bansa.”

Villanueva who is chair of the Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development also underscored how the influx of illegal foreign workers contributes to the wage disparity among Filipino workers and foreigners, which indirectly triggers a spike in related sectors such as real estate.

The senator also said that despite the higher premium on wages of foreign workers, some if not most of them are unregistered properly with the government, resulting to lost opportunities to collect taxes.

The Department of Finance, earlier in 2019, estimated that about P22 billion in taxes were not collected from illegal foreign workers.

“Sa ating pananaw, double whammy ito para sa ating mga Pilipino. Nawalan na tayo ng pagkakataon na magtrabaho, hindi pa nakolektahan ng tamang buwis ang mga banyagang manggagawa,” Villanueva said, “Masyado naman po ata tayong naging dehado sa sarili nating bayan.”

“Let me be clear, though. We are not against foreign workers, nor are we singling out a nationality. We have our labor laws that specifically allow foreign workers to seek employment here, provided that no Filipino is capable, able, and willing to do the job,” he continued, “Only the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) can vet foreign workers as provided by the Labor Code. No other agency, therefore, can allow foreigners to work on our shores without DOLE’s sanction.”

Free job hunting

Re-electionist senator Sonny Angara, on the other hand, called on the president to sign into law a measure that would exempt an estimated 1.3 million first-time jobseekers from paying fees on government-issued documents in connection with their job application.

In his Labor Day message, Angara explained how securing government-issued documents necessary for job applications is “inordinately expensive for people without a regular income.”

These documents include police clearance, NBI clearance, barangay clearance, medical certificate from public hospitals, birth and marriage certificates, tax identification number, community tax certificate, certification of eligibility, multi-purpose ID card, and other documentary requirements issued by the government that may be required by employers.

“Searching for a job can be costly and this measure can help to ease a bit the financial burden first-time jobseekers are faced with,” Angara said, “The costs of looking for work often lead to perverse outcome where jobseekers, having fallen into debt to meet these costs, find themselves worse off before and even unable to pay for basic like food.”

The enrolled copy of the proposed First-Time Jobseekers Act, which seeks to alleviate first-time job applicants of paying as much as P 2,000 for employment requirements, has already been sent to Malacañang for the President’s signature.

Under the bill, those who can avail of the incentive are new graduates who completed the K-12 program, a bachelor’s degree or a technical-vocational course from any school, college, university or tech-voc institution in the country.

Students taking a leave of absence or those working part-time while enrolled are also qualified to avail of the benefits, the senator said.

“Bukod a libreng kolehiyo, dapat ay gawin na rin nating libre ang paghahanap ng trabaho na magbibigay daan upang umangat ang buhay ng bawat pamilyang Pilipino,” he added. (JoelMmangahis/PacificTimes)