DOLE seeks Senate help to provide SSS, Philhealth benefits to golf caddies, freelancers

By Mario Casayuran 

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Monday sought the Senate’s help for the increasing number of independent workers in the country such as golf caddies who are not covered by the Social Service System (SSS) and Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III (PCOO / MANILA BULLETIN) Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III

Appearing before the Senate labor committee chaired by Senator Joel Villanueva, DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello said golf caddies are not paid like regular employees because they and the golf clubs do not have a regular employer-employee relationship, per a Supreme Court ruling.

Caddies and umbrella girls working at the 102 golf courses around the country are considered freelance workers or independent contractors whose pay is dependent on tips the player gives.

This arrangement renders them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, Bello told Villanueva in yesterday’s hearing on various labor-related bills.

Villanueva agreed that these independent contractors need protection. He welcomed Bello’s suggestion that there should be a mechanism for redress through the courts and investigative bodies for freelancers.

He said owners of golf clubs could encourage these freelancers to put up cooperatives for them to be covered by SSS and PhilHealth.

The hearing was conducted on Senate Bill 661 authored by Senator Ramon Revilla Jr., who filed it after the House of Representatives passed House Bill 9160, approved during the last Congress, mandating the management of golf clubs to provide SSS and welfare benefits to golf caddies and other similarly situated service workers.

Under SB 661, caddies shall be covered by SSS, the Home Development Mutual Fund or the PAG-IBIG Fund, and PhilHealth upon their accreditation by the golf club management.

The payment of SSS and Pag-IBIG monthly contributions shall be jointly shared by the golf caddies and other service workers and by the golf club management in accordance with existing rules and regulations.

While there were agreements between the Senate committee and resource speakers during the hearing on other labor-related bills, Villanueva said that his committee will conduct another hearing for the purpose of hearing the opinions of freelancers.