By Ellson Quismorio
Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur 2nd district Rep. LRay Villafuerte has hailed the House panel approval of his pet bill, which is envisioned to assist the estimated 16 million workers in the so-called informal economy.
Recently approved by the committee on labor and employment through pending consolidation with six similar measures was House Bill (HB) No. 3465, or the proposed Magna Carta for Workers in the Informal Economy.
Workers in the informal sector have been hit the hardest by the work stoppages resulting from the economic standstill caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Such employees subsist on “no-work, no-pay” arrangements.
Although the measure was penned before the onset of the pandemic this year, Villafuerte said it was in line with the Duterte administration’s efforts to transition the informal economy workers to the formal sector so that their rights can be protected under the law.
Villafuerte said workers in this sector should also be assured of job security, health care services, and other benefits that employees in the formal sector enjoy.
In a recent hearing of the House labor panel, the members moved for the consolidation of seven bills by the subcommittee on workers of special concern. 1-PACMAN Party-List Rep. Enrico Pineda chairs the mother panel.
“The fact that informal sector workers were among the primary beneficiaries of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) of the government during the lockdown highlights the inequality that they have to endure especially in times of crisis,” Villafuerte said.
“Our proposed Magna Carta for Workers in the Informal Economy, which will mostly benefit those under the no-work, no-pay setup, aims to correct this inequality. Protecting their rights and providing them access to the work-related benefits that workers in the formal sector enjoy is the simplest but most effective way of introducing them to the economic mainstream,” he noted.
The Magna Carta for informal sector workers will also help achieve President Duterte’s goal of financial inclusion, the Bicolano said.
“In the advent of modern technology that empowers connectivity and mobility, as well as progressive legislation that encourages work-from-home (WFH) schemes and increased flexibility, development thinkers predict that the informal economy shall be the accepted norm in the future,” Villafuerte said.
“We would like to ensure that when such time comes, our workers have ample legal protection in place, and our State likewise benefited by their monitored contributions to the gross national product (GDP).”
Villafuerte co-authored Republic Act (RA) No. 11165 or the Telecommuting Act, which provides incentives to corporations to adopt telecommuting or work-from-home (WFH) as an alternative work mode and at the same time guarantees equal rights and privilege to their employees who work from their homes as agreed upon with their bosses.
He said his bill encourages the formation of organizations among marginalized farmers, fisherfolk, women, and workers in the informal economy or employment whether in manufacturing, agriculture, transport, retail, services, and home-based enterprises.
This will ensure that informal workers have a unified body to represent them in all dialogues with the government or in seeking redress for grievances, he said.
Meanwhile, HB 3465 also aims to ensure, among others, gender equality, non-discrimination, the right to self-organization, just and humane conditions of work, and access to social protection programs and services of informal sector workers.
Villafuerte’s proposal also includes the creation of a database of informal sector workers in every local government unit (LGU) so they can be issued identification or ID cards that they can use to avail of services and benefits.
“This comprehensive database shall also form part of the bases of assessment and monitoring of the growth of the informal economy,” the House leader said.
“Such database shall take into account the different sub-classifications in terms of asset size, number of workers, social insurance provided, statutory benefits and wages, industry, geography, premises, sex, ethnicity, vulnerability, and roles and functions. The database shall also indicate informal economic units which may be categorized as livelihood enterprises and entrepreneurial or growth oriented informal businesses,” the bill states.