Senate files bills to cushion Covid-19 effect on labor; DOLE promises 1 million jobs

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Photo Source: PNA

MANILA—As the country celebrates Labor Day virtually, the senators have laid down post lockdown measures to mitigate the ill effects of the pandemic on millions of workers.  Senators are proposing legislations to protect the labor force of the country when the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or the general community quarantine (GCQ) is lifted and workers are allowed to go back to their work.

Senator Risa Hontiveros filed Senate Bill No. 1441 or the “Balik Trabahong Ligtas” which mandates a group life and health insurance coverage of not less than Php 1-million against infectious disease like Covid-19 during public health emergency and at least year after the lifting of the said emergency.  She said the proposed law will protect workers who may be affected by infectious diseases or other hazards that will also put their love ones at risk.

“Workers would be entitled to full payment of their medical bills if they got sick by the infectious disease, and would be presumed to have contracted the infection in the course of their work and would not be required to present proof of this,” Senator Hontiveros added.

On the other hand, Senator Imee Marcos proposed a direct government wage subsidy equivalent to 75 percent of the actual payroll costs of the heavily affected businesses.  Her proposal under Senate Bill No. 1431 aims to “provide an economic recovery package for these businesses in the hardest-hit sectors.”

Based on her study, an estimated one million micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) could not go back to their normal operation after the Covid-19 health and economic crisis.  “It is very important to save them,” she said. Senator Marcos projected the cost of the subsidy to be about Php 63-billion a month although her bill did not specify the duration of the subsidy. 

Moreover, Malacañang and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) have yet to finalize and unveil the so-called “stimulus package” that hopes to create one million jobs in the countryside and villages around the country by designing that government’s public works shall be done by locally-hired workers, among other measures. 

On the eve of the Labor Day celebration, DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III promised a “fresh one million jobs” for workers displaced and disenfranchised during the ECQ lockdown in the provinces.  

However, the promise may be off beat because DOLE itself estimated that more than two million workers lost their work from the temporary closure and business slowdown during the first five weeks of the ECQ.

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