21 December 2010

Kasambahay Bill Hurdles Senate

Helping Hand
Finally, the Philippine Senate has passed on third and final reading the Kasambahay Bill or the proposed law providing for additional benefits and protection to house helpers.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada, one of the principal authors of the bill, expressed hope that the House of Representatives would act on the measure this time around as millions of household helpers have been waiting for this for decades.

"The Kasambahay bill has been languishing in the legislative mill since 1996 when Senator Francisco Tatad first filed a Senate bill for household helpers during the 10th Congress as a response to the recommendations of the first National Consultation on Child Domestic Workers in the Philippines," Estrada said in his sponsorship speech.

"It is now time to revive the Kasambahay bill in order for household helpers to have a decent living," he added.

The bill lists the rights of the household helpers and the responsibilities of their employers including the level of compensation for the helpers.

Under the bill, household helpers based in Metro Manila and other highly-urbanized cities would be entitled to a minimum wage of PhP 2,500 a month.

The minimum wage for their counterparts in the first class municipalities and other chartered cities would be PhP 2,000 a month.

For the rest of the country, the minimum wage would be pegged at PhP 1,500 a month.

The household helpers would be entitled to a 13th month pay and enrolment in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, Social Security System, Pag-Ibig Fund and the Employees Compensation Commission where in the premiums would be paid by their employers.

According to Estrada, the measure also provides a mandatory contract between employer and employee, written in a language or dialect understood by both, and not exceeding two years.

"Having a contract will ensure that employers will comply with standard wages and benefits," Estrada said.

A new section was added to promote their human rights to work, including the right to form association for their mutual benefits and protection and elimination of all kinds of forced or compulsory labor.

Local government units would be required to register the household helpers and their employers for the purpose of monitoring and regulating their employment.

"The abuses of household workers remain rampant and hidden today despite strong public outcry. These abuses happen because household work is a lowly regarded work," Estrada said.

He also noted that child household workers were "perhaps the second largest group of working children next to agriculture workers."

Estrada said that there are an estimated 230,000 to one million children aged 15 to 17 working as household helpers.

Based on a study conducted by the Philippine Commission on Women, the estimated number of household workers in the country ranges from 600,000 to 2.5 million.