Senate begins plenary debate on bill adding labor education in college subjects

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 22 2020 08:12 PM

Factory workers place fish inside cans in a processing plant on August 28, 2017. Agence France Presse/file

MANILA - The Senate on Tuesday began plenary discussions on a bill that would incorporate labor education in existing subjects in colleges and universities to help Filipino students understand their rights and responsibilities as workers.

Senate Bill No. 1513 or the Labor Education Act seeks to integrate the following labor-related topics in various subjects in tertiary education:

- Labor rights and workers' welfare
- Role and contribution of labor to the national economy
- Basic income taxation
- Minimum labor standards on wage, overtime pay, night shift differential, holiday pay, leaves, etc.
- National and global labor situation and challenges
- Labor organization and political participation

"There is no course subject that comprehensively covers labor education," Senate Committee on Labor chair Sen. Joel Villanueva said in plenary.

"We wanted to inculcate the culture of compliance among workers and employers... Marami po sa workers ang naabuso kasi kung titingnan natin, marami ang doon pa lang nakakarinig ano ba 'yung occupational safety, ano ba 'yung work standards," he said.

(Many workers experience abuse because if we look at it, many just learn about occupational safety and work standards when they get to the workplace.)

The bill will not change the existing curriculum but instead add labor education aspects in existing subjects to avoid requiring students to enroll in a separate 51-hour class, Villanueva said.

"The original proposal was then to concentrate labor education into one subject, but during the hearing it (current proposal) came out to avoid congestion of one subject," he said.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon lauded the bill's intention, but urged Villanueva to craft a more "realistic" scope of labor education to avoid overwhelming students.

"This is quite a menu that you would want to insert into core general education subjects. Baka po naman masyadong malaki itong menu na ilalagay sa ating curriculum," Drilon said.

"I do hope the sponsor can open his mind to the fact that the enumeration here of all the laws the student will be bombarded with will require 6 units in law school," said the senate veteran, a lawyer.

Villanueva said he is willing to accept Drilon's amendments that would help improve several provisions in the Labor Education Act.

Sen. Pia Cayetano also backed the bill, saying teaching students about their rights and responsibilities as future employees or employers is a "non-negotiable in the skills we want our young workers to have."