Bill to promote rights of informal workers pushed

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Thursday, May 1, 2014


SENATOR Juan Edgardo Angara is pushing for the passage of Senate Bill 1941 or the Magna Carta of Workers in Informal Economy, which aims to provide the same basic constitutional rights to the informal sector.

"The ranks of informal workers, many of whom live in substandard conditions and cannot meet their basic needs, have been increasing through the years. It is essential to look after their rights and interests if poverty in the country is to be effectively addressed," Angara said.

Workers in the informal economy include micro-entrepreneurs, home-based workers, vendors, jeepney and tricycle drivers, 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, among others.

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The lawmaker said that since most informal workers are not covered by the Labor Code and other legislation that could protect their rights, they are often subject to exploitation by unscrupulous employers, who make them work long hours and at very low wages, without benefits and under very poor working conditions.

"This bill seeks to empower the poor, marginalized, unprotected and underrepresented workers in informal employment, and bring them into the mainstream of the Philippine economy. It carries a strong bias to prioritize and empower the poorest of the poor,” he said.

Angara noted that informal employment is linked to poverty since most of the working poor, or those who are working but cannot work their way out of poverty because of very low earnings and very high risks, belong to the informal sector.

SB 1941 mandates that informal workers must enjoy a living wage and equal remuneration for work; safe and healthy working conditions; rest, leisure and reasonable limitation of working hours; maternity protection; adequate standard of living for workers and their families; education especially of children; and, social protection such as labor market programs, social security, health care and insurance, and social welfare interventions.

The proposed measure also assures the informal workers their right to self-organization; against any form of discrimination, violence, sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse; and, to equal treatment before the law and equal access to justice.

An estimated 25 million Filipino workers in the informal sector stand to benefit if the bill becomes a law, Angara said.

"Workers in informal economy have the same basic rights accorded to all workers as enshrined in the Philippine Constitution and in international instruments. It is imperative that a magna carta for informal workers recognize, defend, protect, promote and fulfill their rights through a continuous process of capacity-building and empowerment," he said. (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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