Labor group Defend Jobs Philippines on Thursday challenged the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to open all its regional offices and make funds immediately available to those needed it due to the lockdown amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis.
On March 11, 2020, days after President Rodrigo Duterte declared the state of national public health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic – Defend Jobs Philippines launched its COVID-19 Labor Monitor which aims to gather reports and assist workers on their complaints of work terminations, plant shutdowns and similar labor concerns related to the coronavirus outbreak.
“As part of our service to Filipino workers, we will ensure that none of our labor force will be taken for granted by their employers both in the private and public sector in regards with their security of their employment, jobs and livelihoods. Under our Labor Code, lay-offs and closures of workplaces require proper legal grounds and must ensure the best interests of our workers. Amid threats of massive terminations of thousands of workforces nationwide due to COVID-19, it is high time for us to extend our support and concern for our working people,” said Defend Jobs, in a statement.
In this regard, Defend Jobs listed the following recommendations for DOLE to address the problems now being faced by the workers and their families:
- We challenge DOLE to open and make all their Regional Offices available for fund access via card or cash, and for its Hotline 1349 to be accessible for queries and concerns of workers and employers in time for the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The national government must immediately suspend the implementation of the “no work, no pay policy” during the enhanced community quarantine and ensure that it will help compensate the wages of workers in both private and public sector.
- Reform COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP) by making its P5,000 cash assistance program inclusive and non-discriminatory to all informal and formal workers and by making it easily accessible for all and by cutting all bureaucratic processes. DOLE must also allot higher fund allocation for this program in order to cater all of its supposed beneficiaries. We also demand transparency as to how the initial funding for the program was spent and utilized.
- Report all companies which will not process the filing of the requirements and application of their employees for CAMP. Defend Jobs Philippines will be sending the list that we got through this hotline and hopes that DOLE will take immediate and appropriate legal actions to such complaints.
- We encourage all affected workers to continue reporting labor-related concerns and issues brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, the implementation of government’s response including CAMP and the enhanced community quarantine.
- We urge the public to be vigilant and active in expressing your sentiments, complaints and disgust against any form of injustices and neglect being implemented by your employers and from the government itself. While on quarantine at home, a lot bigger space on social media is available for us to express our rage and protest against the sufferings we are currently facing.
The COVID-19 Labor Monitor opened its hotline number 82775615 (for Metro Manila) or +63282775615 (for outside Metro Manila) for workers to call from Mondays to Sundays during office hours from 8:00 in the morning to 5:00 in the afternoon.
Defend Jobs also utilized their social media accounts to receive and answer queries and complaint via private and direct messages on Facebook (http://facebook.com/defendjobPH) and Twitter (@defendjobsPH).
“The COVID-19 pandemic does not only put the lives and health of our workers in danger, but their rights and welfare also,” the group sad.
The group’s hotline monitors various cases of unfair labor practices such as non-payment of wages and benefits; terminations due to absences due to fear for their health; non-payment or low rate of hazard pays for medical frontliners and other workers; non-compliance of occupational safety and health protocols; forcing employees to go to work; imposition of forced leaves; non-issuance of personal protective equipment among many others.
They also noticed the sudden rise of cases of establishments and companies of either implementing flexible work adjustments, no work no pay policies or were shutting down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Such cases pose fear and anxiety to their workers of permanently losing their jobs once the crisis subsides, they said.
The workers are also airing out the urgent need for the government to implement free mass testing, hospitalization and granting of food allocations for them.
“We also urge the State to force companies to provide extra benefits for all workers regardless of the employment status in this time of calamity,” they said.
Defend Job Philippines is a non-stock and non-profit organization founded by various labor unions, workers associations, urban poor groups, women’s groups and other sectoral grassroots people’s organizations in Metro Manila.
In the height of the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine and implementation of the DOLE P5,000 emergency cash assistance through its COVID-19 Assistance Measure Program (CAMP), they group extended their hotline hours until 10:00 pm.
From its original purpose of monitoring and assisting affected workers against termination and shutdown due to the COVID-19, this program has also evolved in being an alternative feedback mechanism for workers and their employers in the private sector in processing and availing the CAMP cash aids as the DOLE Hotline 1349 is being reported to be non-functional and not reachable in this crucial time when workers need it the most./Stacy Ang