The Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) condemned several policies issued by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, which it said will cut workers’ wages and benefits, and suspend labour rights.
The unions take exception to Labour Advisory 17 which allows employers to cut wages and benefits in exchange for the continued employment of workers, and Department Order 213, which gives the labour department an opportunity to suspend all proceedings of labor litigations including penalties, awards and payments resulting from rendered decisions. The order also allows the government to set aside routine inspection of workplaces and complaint investigation for occupational safety and health violations, suspend conciliation and mediation proceedings on complaints raised by workers.
“The labour department has placed all these legal rights under a state of suspended animation, as if workers’ rights are the first things to dispense with in a crisis. It is using the pandemic to camouflage the castration of workers’ legal rights,” ALU-TUCP said.
“The impact of these policies further harms the working people's struggle for basic survival and hit workers already agonizing with the very real fear of risk of exposure to the COVID-19 disease. Workers are now reacting with deep-seated resentment and anger given the poorly implemented government response to pandemic lockdown crisis which left so many vulnerable and empty-handed,” the labour center added.
ALU-TUCP explained that Labour Advisory 17 exposes workers to a wide range of abuses in exchange for retaining employment such as lessening working hours through job-sharing and other flexible work schemes, and allowing employers and businesses to reduce at will the existing regional minimum wage rates and existing benefits including the negotiated wage rates and benefits agreed on through a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between employees and management.
The labour center said that the DOLE and Labour Secretary Silvetre Bello have betrayed Filipino workers. It demanded the labour department to make itself accountable and implement the following: 1) genuine worker-employee determination on how to ensure job retention be fairly done, 2) convene industrial tripartite councils to make sensible, practical protocols for COVID-19 management at workplaces, and just policies for job retention, 3) revoke all oppressive Labor Advisories and Department Orders issued during the under cover of the lockdown and 4) call for an immediate virtual/online summit with the labor movement.