House leaders lukewarm on Kasambahay bill, Estrada says
MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Protempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada has warned that household helpers may again have to wait another three years before enjoying more employment benefits due to the lukewarm response of House leaders to his proposed compromises on the Kasambahay (house helper) bill.
The chair of the Senate labor committee said disagreements during a bicameral meeting held early October centered on the salaries that domestic household staff such as maids and babysitters or yayas (nannies) would be paid monthly.
Estrada wants all kasambahay in Metro Manila paid P3,000 monthly; those working in first class municipalities and chartered cities, P2,500 a month and those in the rest of the country, P2,000 a month.
The Senate version also mandates 13th-month pay for these workers. It requires all kasambahay to be covered by the government’s PhilHealth program and membership in the Social Security System.
Under present laws, kasambahay in Metro Manila only receive between P850 to P3,000 monthly.
Those in first class municipalities and chartered cities, P650 to P2,500 and in other municipalities, P550 to P2,000.
Leaders of the House of Representatives, however, want regional wage boards to determine the amounts that would be paid to them.
They argued that there are situations where domestic employers only earn P10,000 a month. Household helpers however, have become a necessity in modern life.
Estrada’s counter-proposal was to let his rates apply in the first year that President Benigno Aquino III signs the bill into law and let the wage boards decide subsequent rates to be paid to kasambahay after that. House leaders would have none of it.
“This bill has been languishing in Congress for the past 18 years,” Estrada complained in a taped overseas phone conversation aired on radio Sunday.
He pointed out that the Kasambahay bill was considered a priority measure during a legislative-executive meeting in the early days of the Aquino administration.
Estrada recalled that the Kasambahay bill only reached bicameral negotiations in the last Congress.
“If we do not agree on the provisions this time, we are going back to square one. Imagine having to re-file this again and go through the hearings when we are nearing the home base at this point,” he said.
“I am getting impatient,” Estrada added.
The senator said he has reached a point when he called Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and majority leader Neptali Gonzales Jr. for possible intervention to break the stalemate with House panel head Rep. Emil Ong.
“I asked that they already agree to the Senate version. They promised to study that matter and give me a call but until now, there has been no response,” Estrada said.
The senator is expected to arrive from Dubai Monday with 20 overseas Filipino workers who left their abusive employers there.
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