Press Release
January 22, 2019

Sponsorship Speech on the Alternative Working Arrangement Bill
by Senator Joel Villanueva

Mr. President, it is my honor and privilege to sponsor Senate Bill No. 1571 under Committee Report No. 554.

This is a relatively simple and straightforward bill that seeks to amend Article 83 of the Labor Code by making an exception to the normal eight (8) hours of work a day when the exigency of business operations or national emergency requires the adoption of a mutually agreed voluntary work arrangement between the employer and the employee.

Mr. President, under the proposed bill, alternative working hours shall not exceed 48 hours a week and there is no reduction of existing benefits.

Para po ito sa mga manggagawa sa pribadong sektor subalit kung magtatakda po ng parehong polisiya ang gobyerno, na nagpapatupad na rin naman ng ilang uri ng mga alternative working arrangement sa ngayon, tiyak na magiging katanggap-tanggap po ito para sa ating mga kawani.

Mr. President, we believe that alternative working arrangement or flexible working is not just a fad but a necessity. We strongly believe that every Filipino worker deserves that we recognize it under our laws.

Now more than ever, companies allow non-traditional working arrangements like flexitime, four day workweek, compressed workweek, working from home, shift flexibility, among others, to give their workers more independence and control over their work.

Workers who have more independence and control over their work are more productive and they deliver better results. This proposition has been tested many times and generally accepted as true by employers and even labor sociologists.

Supporting studies, experiments

For example, a research project funded by the Economic Social Research Council based at the University of Kent in England, entitled "Work Autonomy, Work Flexibility and Work Life Balance", shows that when managers allow workers more discretion or more control over their work, they deliver better performance outcomes or better productivity.

Across Europe, there is an upward trend when it comes to the number of workers gaining that kind of independence over their working hours.

The research project also shows that at least 15% of workers in the 28 member states of the European Union have the freedom to change the beginning and ending times of their work and approximately 5% of all workers across Europe have complete independence over their work.

Mr. President, time indeed has come for flexible working schedule as a business strategy. It's an answer to the changes in the labor market and in the nature of employment.

As I always say, we are now in the age of robotics, the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0. Today, work need not be confined in a certain place or office. Work need not happen at the same time. Work can be done remotely.

Thus, working arrangements must also change. For one, employees should be given the right or freedom to flexible work 'time in' and 'time out'.

Case study of a Filipino working flexibly

Mr. President, habang ginagawa po natin ang bill na ito, nakausap po natin si Arlene G. Ylagan, Industrial Engineer at Strategic Materials Planner sa Nestle Philippines. Bagamat panukala pa lang ang Alternative Work Arrangement Bill, matagal nang nagpapatupad ng flexitime ang kanilang administrative office na nasa Makati.

Sabi ni Arlene, kahit anong oras pwedeng pumasok basta makumpleto ang 8-hour na trabaho kada araw. Hindi rin daw istrikto sa pagmo-monitor sa oras ang kumpanya dahil mas importante ang "output" kesa sa oras na nilalagi ng empleyado sa opisina.

Sa kaso ni Arlene, pumapasok po s'ya ng alas-siyete ng umaga hanggang alas-kwatro y medya para hindi raw masyadong ma-traffic at mas mabilis ang travel time. May iba namang empleyado na pumapasok ng alas-sais at may iba ring umuuwi ng alas-nuwebe ng gabi.

Nakatira sa Novaliches at may isang anak si Arlene na dalawang taong gulang. Ang kanyang asawa na isa ring Industrial Engineer ay isang OFW sa United Kingdom.

But don't get me wrong, Mr. President. There are types of work that are not yet suitable to flexible working.

For instance, Arlene shared that "flexitime" only applies to their administrative offices but not in factories and distribution centers of Nestle.

Her testimony is a validation of the position of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines or ECOP that jobs in manufacturing, at least those in assembly lines, are not yet suitable to alternative work arrangements.

Experience from other countries

However, Mr. President, despite the challenges on the suitability of alternative work arrangements in distinct occupations, there are countries that have made it the legal right of all employees to flexible working.

For example, if you're working anywhere in the United Kingdom, you can apply for flexible working if you've worked continuously for the same employer for the last 26 weeks.

The steps to avail this kind of arrangement are rather simple: The employee writes to the employer. Then the employer considers the request and makes a decision within 3 months. If the employer agrees to the request, they must change the terms and conditions in the employee's contract. If the employer disagrees, they must write to the employee giving the business reasons for the refusal.

Mr. president, gusto ko pong bigyang diin na hindi po natin gagawing compulsary ang mga alternative working arrangement, katulad din po ng Telecommuting Act, optional o voluntary po ito at depende sa pangangailangan o exigency ng business operation.

Benefits to workers, employers

Mr. President, alternative working arrangements in the private sector has massive benefits.

The workers will deliver more and better results, not to mention that they will be happier because of work-life balance.

Recruitment and training will be less expense to employers because happier employees are less likely to quit or change jobs.

It will be a domino of enormous benefit to our society. There will certainly be huge savings resulting from the reduction of traffic congestion and the consequent reduction of pollution with the concomitant health benefits and less possibility of stress and road rage, lower demand and possibly lower oil prices, among others.

Mr. President, Senate Bill No. 1571 is a very forward looking bill and we can act proactively by passing this measure now. In view of the intensifying industrial era and the continuous stride in the country's services sector, which posted the highest share to GDP of 59.3% during the third quarter of 2018, more and more jobs will be suitable to alternative working arrangements.

Ihanda po natin ang ating mga manggagawa at ang ating mga industriya sa pag-usbong ng mga bago, disente, at mas magagandang trabaho dito sa Pilipinas. Ipasa po natin ang Senate Bill 1571.

Thank you distinguished colleagues, thank you Mr. President. God bless us all.

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