Safety nets for informal sector workers proposed

A HOUSE  leader on Saturday urged Congress to approve a  measure that aims to  guarantee the  access to social protection  and other safety nets of an estimated 16 million workers in the so-called informal economy.

Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sir Rep. LRay Villafuerte said his call is in line with the President Rodrigo Duterte administration’s efforts to transition them to the formal sector so that their rights can be protected under the law.

Workers in the informal sector have been hit the hardest by the work stoppages resulting from the economic standstill induced by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) outbreak as they subsist on the no-work, no-pay labor arrangement.

As the author of House Bill (HB) 3465 or the proposed Magna Carta for Workers in the Informal Economy, 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.

Villafuerte issued this statement as he welcomed the recent move by the House committee on labor and employment chaired by 1-Pacman partylist Rep. Enrico Pineda to approve and consolidate into one HB No. 3465 and six similar measures all promoting the rights of workers in the informal economy.

In a recent committee hearing, these seven bills were referred for consolidation to the House labor panel's subcommittee on workers of special concerns.

“The fact that informal sector workers were among the primary beneficiaries of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) of the government during the lockdown imposed by the government to shield us from the coronavirus pandemic highlights the inequality that they have to endure especially in times of crisis,” Villafuerte said.

The Magna Carta for informal sector workers  will also help achieve President Duterte’s goal of financial inclusion,  the lawmaker noted.

Villafuerte has co-authored Republic Act (RA) No. 11165 or the Telecommuting Act, which provides incentives to corporations to adopt telecommuting or 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.

Villafuerte 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 government or in seeking redress for grievances, he said.

Villafuerte’s bill mandates government agencies such as the Departments of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to, among others, consolidate social welfare efforts to address the needs of the workers in the informal economy, including direct assistance, policy development and community engagement for workers.

The bill also mandates the DOLE to engage in labor market interventions to provide adequate protection for the workers in the informal economy and ensure timely and immediate action for labor concerns as well as security of tenure, job generation and other pertinent concerns, he said.

Villafuerte also called for easier access by informal sector workers to social security and medical health insurance coverage, as well as protection in designated workplaces against eviction and demolition, and special budget allocation for development programs.

HB 3465 also aims to ensure, among others,  gender equity,  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.