By Wilnard Bacelonia

ALL FOR WORKERS. Senators sing the national anthem as they resume the regular session on Monday (April 29, 2024). They vowed to push for more pro-workers legislations as they paid tribute to the Filipino labor force. (PNA photo by Avito C. Dalan)

MANILA – Senators on Wednesday vowed to continue upholding the welfare of workers and provide more opportunities as they honor the Filipino workforce on Laboy Day.

“We in the Senate stand with every Filipino worker in fighting for their rights, from better wages to safer workplaces,” Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said in a statement as he recognized the contribution of Filipino workers in nation-building.

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva said the Senate is committed to improving the lives of Filipino workers.

He cited Trabaho Para sa Bayan Act, PHP100 daily minimum wage increase, the Enterprise-Based Education and Training Bill, and the push for alternative working arrangements as initiatives of senators in bringing about positive changes for every Filipino worker.

“Ginagawa po natin ang lahat upang masuklian ang bawat pawis ng ating mga manggagawa sa pamamagitan ng pagbalangkas ng mga batas na magpapaigting ng proteksyon, kapakanan at kakayahan ng ating mga manggagawa (We are doing everything to compensate for every sweat of our workers by drafting laws that will strengthen the protection, welfare and skills of our workers),” Villanueva assured.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada, who chairs the Committee on Labor, said efforts are underway to harmonize the Senate and House versions of the PHP100 daily minimum wage increase bill.

Estrada also filed a measure proposing the gradual increase of the basic salary of government employees.

“Ang lahat ng ito ay pinagsisikapan natin upang makamit ang ating adhikain na mabigyan ang lahat ng manggagawang Pilipino ng disenteng pasahod, na magkaroon sila ng tinatawag nating work-life balance at maginhawang buhay (We are working hard to achieve our goal of giving all Filipino workers a decent wage, so that they have what we call a work-life balance and a comfortable life),” he said.

Heat breaks, work arrangements

Senator Grace Poe has reiterated her call for employers to implement heat breaks, alternative work arrangements, safety measures, and financial incentives to their employees.

“We reiterate our call to employers who are capable to provide supplementary allowance or extend any assistance to their employees to help them get by,” Poe said.

Teachers, gov’t workers

Meanwhile, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian called for the passage of the Revised Magna Carta for Public School Teachers to improve teachers’ welfare and provide benefits like calamity leave, educational benefits, and longevity pay.

The bill aimed at providing special hardship allowance, enhancing salary criteria, and protecting teachers from out-of-pocket expenses.

Probationary teachers will receive equal salaries, benefits, and work conditions as entry-level teachers, while classroom teaching hours will be reduced from six to four, with additional hours compensated.

“Alalahanin natin ang dedikasyon sa trabaho ng ating mga guro. Sila ang humuhubog sa galing at kakayahan ng ating mga mag-aaral kaya itaguyod natin ang mas mataas na sahod at mas maayos na kabuhayan para sa kanila. Tiyakin din natin na nasa mabuti silang kalagayan upang ipagpatuloy ang hindi mapapantayan nilang sakripisyo (Let’s remember the dedication to work of our teachers. They are the ones who shape the talents and abilities of our students, so let’s promote higher wages and a better livelihood for them. Let us also ensure that they are in good condition to continue their unparalleled sacrifice,)” Gatchalian said.

While Filipino workers are the backbone of the economy and drivers of growth and development, Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. said decent work, proper conditions, fair wages, and protection of workers against abuse are crucial.

“Hindi sapat ang salita upang kahit paano ay matumbasan namin ang inyong sakripisyo hindi lamang para sa inyong sarili at sa inyong pamilya, kundi para na rin sa ating bansa (Words are not enough to somehow compensate for your sacrifice not only for yourself and your family, but also for our country,)” he said.

Women workers

Senator Pia Cayetano honored Filipino women in the labor force as she vowed to craft policies that support and empower them in their workplace.

These include laws expanding maternity leave benefits, promoting breastfeeding at work, and prohibiting age-based discrimination in employment.

“We also shine a spotlight on the incredible dedication of women workers, particularly working moms, who tirelessly balance their dual role as their families’ caretakers and providers,” Cayetano said.

Informal economy

Joining her colleagues in paying tribute to Filipino workers, Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros called for the expansion of labor laws to cover all workers, regardless of their employment type.

She said delivery riders, construction workers, and agricultural workers need additional protection due to the challenging conditions they face.

Hontiveros also urged the Department of Transportation to support jeepney drivers with proper routes, budgets, and access to loans.

“It is my firm belief that our laws and policies must encompass the diverse realities of workers today,” she said.

The senator said concerns and hard work of the “drivers of economy” should be valued, as well as their dignity and equal opportunity. (PNA)