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Senate approves 3 major bills on third reading

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The Senate approved on third and final reading on Monday three important measures, including Senate Bill No. 2748 or an Act requiring all concerned government agencies to ensure the early release of the retirement pay, pensions, gratuities and other benefits of government retiring employees.

Another measure passed on third reading was SB No. 2802 or an Act recognizing the early years from zero to six as the first crucial stage of development and for this purpose strengthening the early Childhood Care and Development Council, renaming the Day Care Center as Child Development Center.

The chamber also approved SB 2701 or an Act allowing the employment of night workers, repealing Articles 130 and 131 of the Labor Code of the Philippines, which in effect will provide equal employment opportunities for men and women in night work.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV authored SB 2748 which seeks the release of retirement benefits within a 30-day period except the Government Service Insurance System retirement benefits that would be released on the last working day of the government employee or on the date of retirement.

“Public officers and employees who have spent the best years of their lives serving government and the public should not be made to unreasonably wait and suffer unexplainable delay in their receipt of benefits, which are due them under the law,” Trillanes said.

Trillanes’ bill also seeks to penalize officials who would cause undue delay on the release of these benefits. These erring officials, after hearings and due proceedings, shall be subject to administrative disciplinary action and be penalized with suspension from service without pay from six months to one year, at the discretion of the disciplining authority, except in cases of force majeure and other insuperable cases.

Trillanes said that his committee had received numerous complaints of delay in the release of the employees’ retirement benefits, a practice that has become so serious and pervasive in the government, which is the largest employer in the country with about 1.31 million employees as of second quarter of 2010.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada, principal author and sponsor of SB 2701, said his committee has decided to repeal the two articles which limit the job spectrum for female workers.

“Initially, we wanted to expand the exceptions prescribed by our Labor Code on women worker on night work since it is our aim to level the employment field for men and women while maintaining protection for women workers. But after hearing the invaluable inputs of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, we decided to go all out in dismantling the discriminatory provisions in our Labor Code against our women workers,” Estrada said.
Article 130 explicitly prohibits nighttime work (generally between 12:00 midnight and 6:00 a.m.) for women in industrial, commercial and non-industrial undertakings (other than agricultural). Article 131, however, provides exceptions on cases of emergencies, urgent work on machineries, managerial posts, cases permitted by the Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment, among others.

“These stipulations prove oppressive when we look at the boom of call center industry which operates on a 24-hour system. In addition, before women workers can actually work, they have to suffer a burdensome process of securing paper work and permits,” Estrada said.

Senate Bill 2701 also introduced a new chapter in the Labor Code on the employment of night workers and provided measures on health assessment, installation of mandatory facilities for workplaces, compensation and benefits for night workers.

Noteworthy provisions include those which provide that “workers shall have the right to undergo a health assessment without charge and to receive advice on how to reduce or avoid health problems associated with their work” and one that requires the employers to provide first-aid facilities, sleeping and resting quarters and means of transportation (subject to exceptions and guidelines by the DOLE).

Estrada noted that this is in compliance with the country's obligation to the CEDAW or the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women and consistent with the objectives of Republic Act No. 9710 or the Magna Carta for Women.

SB 2802 was filed by Senators Estrada, Santiago, Edgardo Angara and Ramon Revilla Jr. (Jelly F. Musico-PNA)

 




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