Senate cool to unemployment insurance; House bill filed

Published by rudy Date posted on March 26, 2009

MANILA, Philippines – Nueva Ecija Rep. Edno Joson yesterday filed a bill seeking to provide compensation of up to six months to workers rendered jobless by the financial crisis or other causes.

A senator, however, thumbed down the proposal.

Joson said his proposal is similar to existing programs in the United States, Australia, United Kingdom, and Germany where “economic assistance is extended to people who are confronted with income losses due to unemployment.”

He said the measure would give temporary economic support to those who lose their jobs due to economic crisis, reorganization, retrenchment, or other similar business decisions.

On Tuesday, President Arroyo ordered economic managers to study the proposal of Economic Planning Secretary Ralph Recto to give unemployment insurance to jobless workers.

However, the legal basis for the grant of such insurance was not clear.

Joson’s Bill 5928 would amend Republic Act 8282, otherwise known as the Social Security Law, which created the Social Security System (SSS).

Under the proposal, permanent employees involuntarily separated from service would receive 50 percent of their monthly salary for a maximum of six months provided they have contributed to the SSS at least six months prior to separation.

Those with contributions of two months to less than two years would receive compensation for two months, while those with contributions of two years to less than five years would get three months.

Those who have contributed to the SSS for five to eight years would get four months, those with contributions of eight years to 10 years would receive five months and those with contributions of more than 10 years would be entitled to the maximum six-month temporary compensation.

Joson, an independent, proposed that the first payment would be equivalent to two-month temporary pay or a full one-month salary.

Accumulated unemployment compensation would be deducted from an employee’s separation benefits.

Recto’s proposal is for jobless workers to receive between P5,000 and P10,000 a month in unemployment insurance, for which the government and SSS would foot the bill.

Apparently, the program would be undertaken at no cost to workers.

Recto compared his proposal to President Arroyo’s P10-billion “conditional transfer” or dole-outs to the poor, which included P500 subsidy for their electric bills.

“If you have P10 billion for conditional transfer, assuming 100,000 lose their jobs, at P10,000 a month for six months, that’s only P6 billion. But if you do it at P5,000 a month for six months, then that’s 200,000 jobless people benefited,” Recto said.

Organized labor, on the other hand, gave its full backing to the planned unemployment insurance scheme, saying the grant “is very timely.”

“Unemployment insurance is one of the schemes lacking in our social security system and yet it is one of the key features of many social security systems abroad,” Sonny Matula, Federation of Free Workers (FFW) acting president, said.

Matula dismissed fears that its implementation could lead to the collapse of the country’s social security system.

“On the contrary, Sweden and the US adopted this scheme at the time they were facing unemployment crisis in the 1920s and 1930s, respectively,” he said.

Senate turns a cold shoulder

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, a known Malacañang ally, was cool to Joson’s proposal.

“If you’re giving them only six months, well, they can eat their meals for six months. How about after that? And once the program is in place, government will be hard put in dismantling it,” Enrile told reporters at the Senate yesterday.

He said the program might face massive political pressure from various sectors. He even compared it initially to the land reform program that has been extended for 20 years now.

Enrile also asked where the government would get the funds to provide for those who are jobless and how long they can be subsidized.  He also asked how non-members of the Social Security System (SSS) can be covered by the plan.

Holy Week protests

Meanwhile, the militant Anakbayan group is set to hold rallies during the Holy Week to protest the growing unemployment among graduates in the country today.

Members of Anakbayan-East Metro Manila and Bayan-NCR held a lightning rally at the EDSA Shrine early morning Monday as mock graduation rites.

Protesters staged their action as the commencement of “soon-to-be jobless fresh graduates” is highly anticipated in the coming days.

This year alone, almost 517,427 graduating students are expected to be added to the ranks of the already swelling unemployed.

“It is a depressing scene to see our youth marching with their togas yearly (but) having no assurance at all that they will land in jobs that suit their earned degrees after graduation,” said Roy Velez, Bayan-NCR spokesperson.

“For the longest time, our government has been clearly doing nothing significant to secure enough locally generated jobs for our new graduates. The government of President Arroyo has been very much contented in pushing our young workforce abroad,” he said.

The group said 25 percent of the total Filipino work force are overseas and that the Arroyo government’s fundamental framework policy on employment remains dependent on exportation, contractualization as well as on cheap and docile labor.

Velez said only through nationalization of the basic industries and through a genuine land reform program can the government generate decent jobs for the people.

He also blamed the US government for its impositions on the country’s internal concerns to allegedly save itself from its own crisis.

To date, almost 15 million American workers are jobless due to the challenges that the US economy is facing, Bayan-NCR said.

Velez said a record high 11 million Filipino workers are currently jobless and seeking work as the year started, which further gives rise to the unemployment rate of almost 11.2 percent. Across the nation, the highest percentage of unemployment was recorded in Metro Manila (14 percent) and in Southern Tagalog (10.9). – ess Diaz and Christina Mendez with Mayen Jaymalin, Perseus Echeminada, Philippine Star

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