Tomorrow, May 01, is Labor Day. I am joining some friends in spreading these suggestions to address the plight of our workers.
Blas F. Ople Policy Center
April 27, 2008
Ople Center recommends additional non-wage benefits for May 1
The Blas F. Ople Policy Center proposed five specific non-wage benefits that the government can study as part of its package of benefits to workers on Thursday, May 1 also known as Labor Day.
Former labor undersecretary Susan Ople, who heads the BFO Policy Center, said high costs of rice, food and oil should encourage the government to think about urgent ways to help workers around the country cope with inflation and the erosion of their purchasing power.
The Center recommends that the government consider:
- Declaring a temporary yet mandatory four-day work week for all government agencies except for those dealing with public health and national security. A four-day work week will enable government workers to save on transportation and food costs while giving them a three-day weekend that they could use to be with their families or to jumpstart micro enterprises. This would also help ease traffic on Fridays which could in turn alleviate stress on the part of the driving and riding public. This will also help government save on its energy costs.
- Citing occupational health and safety standards as a way to compel the Business Processing and Outsourcing industry to invest in free shuttle services for their employees. Night shift call center agents, especially young women, have to pay extra for taxi fare to ensure their own personal security while going to or leaving their place of work everyday. Given the substantial earnings of the biggest call center companies in Metro Manila and other urban cities, such investments would go a long way in promoting the well-being of their employees. As an alternative, successful BPOs should provide daily transport allowances to night-shift employees and workers on top of their regular pay.
- The government can also expand and maximize the Special Program for the Employment of Students (SPES) during the summer break. Very few employers and students are aware of this program and yet it represents a good vehicle for skills training and development. On the part of the students, the SPES under DOLE’s supervision, enables them to gain work experience while at the same time saving up for their tuition fees in the forthcoming semesters. SPES deserves a re-launch with the full participation of the different chambers of commerce.
- Fast-track an emergency employment program that would tap jobless yet experienced ex-OFWs and early retirees who have certain skills sets and good work ethics honed through the years. For example, in nearly every department, there is always a backlog of data and information that needs to be encoded and digitized. The hiring of qualified ex-OFWs and early retirees from the private and public sectors to help meet such backlogs can form part of this program which is geared towards enhancing productivity of the workforce and stimulating the economy.
- Develop employment opportunities in the creative economy through outsourcing. This is something that can easily be done at the national and local levels. The different departments can stimulate the economy by outsourcing programs and projects that qualified NGOs and freelance creative groups and individuals can do. Rather than just putting out bidding announcements for equipments and supplies, the government must also learn to look outwards by encouraging department heads to outsource certain programs to the private sector. This will help stimulate government interaction with young creative minds and dynamic civil society groups. This would also expose bureaucrats to market and technology-driven concepts and realities. Government outsourcing requires a new mindset that now prevails in many bureaucracies around the world.
Ople said the five points can be fleshed out by the government through the labor department with representatives of big business and civil society.
“We need fresh perspectives on how to combine public policy with the government’s clout as an employment-innovator. If done right, the public sector can assume a leading role in job generation, even if these are work assignments that are time-bound and objectives-driven,” the BFO Center stressed.
The BFO Policy Center said it would submit a memo to Labor Secretary Marianito Roque containing the five unsolicited recommendations. “If one or two of them are considered, then that is already a positive contribution of the Center to Labor Day,” Ople said.
The Blas F. Ople Policy Center is a non-government organization formed in honor of the memory of the late Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas F. Ople. It was during Ople’s time as labor secretary that the overseas employment program was created. He is also acknowledged as the Father of the Philippine Labor Code.