Senator asks DOLE to help displaced informal workers

SENATOR Joel Villanueva on Wednesday stressed that the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) should also implement an employment assistance program for informal workers whose source of income has been cut off by the enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila and other parts of the country,

Villanueva, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment, and Human Resource Development, said informal workers such as drivers of public utility vehicles, vendors, hawkers, and the like, are left without viable alternatives to earn a decent living to provide for their families.

“Sa isang iglap, nawalan po ng kabuhayan ang ating mga vendors, drivers, at iba pa pang manggagawa sa informal sector. Hinihiling natin sa DOLE na kaagad magpatupad ng programa na sasalo sa ating mga informal workers,” Villanueva said in a statement.

“Hindi po makikipagsapalaran sa paglabas sa kanilang mga tahanan ang ating mga manggagawa kung alam nila na may tulong na ipapamahagi ang pamahalaan para sa kanilang mga pangangailangan,” diin ng senador.

The lawmaker credited the labor department for swiftly responding to his request on Monday to implement employment assistance programs in light of the community quarantine imposed by the government to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

On Tuesday, DOLE released the guidelines covering the COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program, which will give displaced workers in the formal economy a P5,000 lump-sum cash assistance.

Villanueva pointed out the amount will go a long way for workers, especially those who fall under the category of no work, no pay, and keep them confined in their homes while the government grapples to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

Workers covered by the order include retained workers having reduced working hours due to the implementation of flexible working arrangements by employers, and workers whose employment has been suspended due to the temporary shutdown of their employer’s operation, according to the guidelines which the department released on Tuesday afternoon.

Aside from the cash assistance, DOLE will also give affected workers employment facilitation services to match their skills with available domestic or overseas jobs.

Villanueva expressed hope the department would also act on his request to expedite the implementation of the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers Program (TUPAD) to further cushion the impact of the quarantine among workers.

TUPAD is an emergency employment program implemented in communities for displaced workers, seasonal workers, and even the underemployed. Beneficiaries work for a minimum 10 days but not exceeding 30 days, depending on the nature of the work to be performed.

The lawmaker suggested to let TUPAD beneficiaries provide support services to law enforcers manning checkpoints “as long as TUPAD beneficiaries are provided personal protective equipment and training.” He was also open to the idea of letting TUPAD beneficiaries help in the disinfection of public places, with the caveat that safety gear is available.

In the alternative, the TUPAD beneficiaries may also render work after the community quarantine has been lifted.