Bill seeking protection for informal workers filed

A bill was filed in the Senate that will assure vendors, fisherfolks, farmers and other informal workers access to social protection and coverage in Social Security System and Philippine Health Insurance that will be subsidized by the government.

Senator Sony Angara filed Senate Bill 309 or the Magna Carta of Workers in Informal Economy (MACWIE).

The bill, he said, will mandate that informal workers must enjoy just and favorable conditions of work; a living wage and equal remuneration for work; safe and healthy working conditions; rest, leisure and reasonable limitation of working hours, among others.

If enacted, a WIELDO or Workers in Informal Employment Local Development Office will also be established in every city and municipality in the country.

“Informal workers don’t have access to social protection and justice. Dahil hindi sila sakop ng batas, halos hindi sila kinikilala ng lipunan. Kadalasan ay nabibiktima pa sila ng kotong,” Angara said in a statement sent to the media.

Angara serves as the vice chairman of the Labor Committee in the Senate.

The senator said workers in the informal economy are not covered by the Labor Code and other legislation that could protect their rights.

Such situation has made them vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous employers who make them work long hours and at very low wages, without benefits and under very poor working conditions, he added.

Considered as informal workers in Angara’s bill are the micro-entrepreneurs, home-based workers, vendors, small transport operators, small and landless farmers, fisherfolk, non-corporate construction workers, garbage collectors and recyclers, petty retailers, barter traders, small-scale miners and quarry workers, entertainers, beauticians and hairdressers, laundry persons, on-call domestic helpers, barangay health workers and other volunteer workers, barkers, unorganized cargo handlers, among others.

“Most of our informal workers are described as the ‘working poor’–or those who are working but cannot work their way out of poverty because of very low earnings and very high risk. Tulungan po natin silang makaahon,” the senator added.

He said data from the Department of Labor and Employment estimates that 16.7 million workers in the informal economy will benefit if the bill is enacted into law.

The bill, he added, will also provide for special allocations for programs and services for workers in informal economy amounting to at least 10 percent of the annual national budget and at least three percent of the development fund of each local government unit’s internal revenue allotment.

To avail of such development programs and services, Angara said informal workers must register in the local government to be listed in a centralized database system, and issued an identity card and a record book with a list of all services and benefits they can avail of.

A one-time registration fee of not more than P50 per worker shall be paid to the municipality or city where they reside.

“Passing the Magna Carta would lead to a win-win situation for the country. While we provide basic rights and social protection to our informal workers, we also grow our economy by harnessing their full potential to become effective and productive economic actors of the country,” Angara said.

He added that the proposed bill will be the culmination of persistent advocacy efforts involving informal workers’ associations, women’s groups, human rights and other civil society organizations stretching for more than a decade.

“It is high time for this bill to move forward,” Angara stressed.

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