With Christmas in the offing, Sen. Ralph Recto’s Senate Bill 2879, raising the tax exemption threshold of the 13th-month pay from P30,000 to P60,000, is surely good news. The sad news is it will benefit only employees earning more than P30,000 a month, which are not too many.
More than three decades after the Labor Code’s passage, the bigger bulk of this country’s employee sector sadly remains unorganized. For them, forming or joining a union—so they may bargain collectively with their employers for better working terms—is not unlike enlisting with the Katipunan in Andres Bonifacio’s time: One may not be charged for insurrection, but he risks losing his job.
Indeed, it is bad enough that the unorganized working sector remains extremely marginalized despite the spawning of the animal called party-list system in our political landscape. It is worse that the career paths of the concerned member-employees hang so precariously at the mercy of the code, some of whose provisions may have either grown obsolete or are deemed ab initio stupid, yet wittingly or unwittingly ignored by present-day lawmakers.
For example, what monumental difference exists between a regular and a special nonworking holiday? As things stand, a daily rated worker gets an additional 100 percent pay over and above his basic wage rate for working during a regular holiday, but only an extra 30 percent on a special holiday. He is also guaranteed a day’s pay even if he does not report for work on a regular holiday, but receives nothing for not working on a special holiday.
Some say a daily-waged worker need not be allowed to suffer any loss in his normal pay because it is simply not his fault that a day is a nonworking regular holiday. True. But shouldn’t that equally apply to special holidays? I submit, it should apply more commonsensically to special holidays (which are just suddenly declared) than to regular holidays (which everybody knows at the start of any given year and for which workers should be able to make some reasonable allowance). That argument, to boot, is totally moot, as both regular and special holidays are now announced by the administration before the start of any given year.
Meanwhile, relatively shorter workweeks, higher overtime/night differential rates, and longer sick, vacation and other leave entitlements have become commonplace for workers in practically all business establishments, but remain impossible dreams in those where employees have yet to forge collective bargaining agreements. These are just among several provisions in our labor code. Chances are there may yet be other laws that have long ached for updating, lest they continue to leave a bad taste in people’s mouth.
That said, I do not wish to sound like an ingrate to Senator Recto’s otherwise well-meant legislation. I would have just been a bit happier if, the next time he crafts another employee-related law, it would truly be a boon to a relatively broader spectrum of our working populace.—RUDY L. CORONEL, firstname.lastname@example.org