Press Release
September 2, 2020

Villanueva: Teaching labor laws to students in tertiary education to empower future workers, help curb abuse

Senator Joel Villanueva has urged his colleagues in the Senate to pass the proposed Labor Education Act that would require tertiary education institutions to integrate into their general education curriculum the rights of Filipino laborers.

In a sponsorship speech, Villanueva said the proposed bill, which he submitted for plenary action on Tuesday afternoon, would address the problem of labor rights violations in the workplaces by educating both workers and employers on existing labor laws.

"This legislation mandates the integration of Labor Education topics into selected core General Education (GE) subjects in the Higher Education Curriculum. It also decrees integrating Labor Education into the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Curriculum through appropriate modules of instructions and other relevant materials crucial to empowering future Filipino workers, employers, and entrepreneurs," said Villanueva, chair of the Senate Committee on Higher and Technical and Vocational Education.

"During a period of massive job displacements and implementation of various company cost-cutting measures brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is all the more important that we have a labor force who is knowledgeable of their labor rights and remedies under the law in case their rights are violated," continued the lawmaker, who also chairs the body's labor committee. "Given all the above reasons, we seek the immediate passage of this bill."

Senate Bill No. 1513, which consolidated related bills on labor education as well as a counterpart measure from the House of Representatives, proposed to require universities and colleges to integrate labor education into the mandatory social science subjects being offered under the general education curriculum in higher education courses. It also mandates the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to include labor education in their training regulations.

The measure defines labor education as the "teaching of labor rights, workers' welfare and benefits, core labor standards, labor laws and regulations, the national and global labor situation, labor market concerns, labor issues, overseas work and related problems, the nature of human labor, the role of labor in the self-realization of the human being, the foundations of the dignity of labor, and other topics related to labor and employment."

In his speech, Villanueva noted that a huge number of Filipino workers, here and abroad, still face tremendous problems due to violations of current laws on the rights and protection of workers.

The problems "range from unemployment and underemployment to problems concerning fair wages, job security, safe workplaces, social protection, and unfair labor practices," he said. "Disregarded are the labor rights of Filipino workers, and it is not uncommon to see that these rights are violated, at home, and more so abroad. Some of these rights include the rights of workers to self-organization, collective bargaining, security of tenure, and just and humane conditions of work."

Villanueva stressed that "the Senate cannot afford to sit while these happen. We have to eradicate this evil at its roots. It certainly already is cliche, but we also know that the root cause of this predicament is ignorance."

Villanueva said several Filipino workers were still unaware of their labor rights and access to legal aid or assistance remained inadequate, forcing some of them to compromise or to cower in the event that their rights are violated.

"Clearly, the government must strive to make every Filipino worker aware of his or her rights," he said. "It is equally unfortunate that even Filipino entrepreneurs are also inadequately educated on labor rights. The Bureau of Local Employment reported that over half of the establishments they inspected in 2017 failed to comply with general labor standards."

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