Philippine unions call for faster and better aid to workers amid lockdown extension

27 April 2020 08:13

The Federation of Free Workers (FFW) and the Nagkaisa Labour Coalition called on the government to augment and expedite aid to workers after an extended lockdown lasting until 15 May was imposed on key areas in Luzon to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

The unions said that most workers have not received the government’s promised aid, with the government admitting that only 49 percent of the target beneficiaries were provided with minimal aid. The unions also expressed their disappointment over the Covid Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP), a financial assistance program for workers, which was abruptly abandoned due to lack of funds. 

The unions asserted that the government’s COVID-19 response package amounting to

PHP 250 Billion (USD 5 Billion) is inadequate. They said that the fund is only 1.4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and not enough to respond to a pandemic with an economic impact worse than the 1997 and 2008 financial crises.

FFW and Nangkaisa! reiterated their call to the government to consult and work with trade unions in addressing the crisis. As such, they made the following demands:

  • A clear national action plan for defeating COVID-19 and protecting the people from the impacts of economic recession.

  • Universal support, for example, an income guarantee equivalent to the prevailing minimum wage or PHP 10,000 (USD 196.00).

  • Improve protection to all our health workers who are disproportionately infected by the virus and build up the public health care delivery by (a) hiring full time healthcare workers; (b) regularizing all HCWs under contract of service (COS) arrangements under the civil service; and (c) prioritise for hiring those who are on volunteer status who want to be part of the public service.

  • Release a Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE) Department Order that would mandate the employers to negotiate with unions or workers’ representatives on practical and realistic Covid-19 protocols, most importantly a PCR-based massive testing rather than the rapid antibody test being promoted by the business sector; provision of PPEs, regular workplace disinfection, and providing paid quarantine leaves when needed.

  • Ensure free medical services for infected workers.

  • Subsidize and/or grant tax incentives to employers who grant hazard pay of PHP 500 (USD 10) a day or 25 percent of worker's salaries, whichever is higher, to their employees.