The future belongs to those who persist and prepare for it today

MAY 1, 2020
Contact: Atty. Sonny Matula, Chairperson
Nagkaisa! Labor Coalition

The future belongs to those who persist and prepare for it today!

Today, we mark the 117th year of celebrating the International Labor Day in the country amidst the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID 19) pandemic that brought the world to a standstill. Ill-prepared to face an invisible enemy, many governments, including the Duterte government, bungled their way in handling the crisis after initially downplaying the threat posed by SARS-CoV-2.

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The toll on human lives is immense and the socio-economic fall-out will be unprecedented. Covid 19 will be with us until a vaccine could be developed. It will create a different world.

Like in all other crises, the working people are the biggest victims, especially the working poor. According to the estimates of Ateneo Center for Economic Research and Development, almost 25 million workers have been displaced. Many were locked down without the means to survive. And when they try to do something to alleviate their hunger, they end up violating quarantine. At least 120,000 have been arrested and incarcerated since the lockdown begun, which is why the UN Human Rights Council called out the Philippine government for its repressive “action under the guise of protecting health.”

For many, the worst is not over. As the world enters a deep recession, workers are expected to lose their jobs. According to the latest estimates of the government, unemployment is expected to hit 8%. NAGKAISA believes that this is a very conservative figure.

This is why we have a hard time understanding why our initial response was a measly amount of P250B or US$5B to a pandemic with economic impact worse than the 1997 and 2008 financial crisis. In the Philippines, we have an economy of more than $355B (2019) screeching to halt and government is putting an estimated $5B to fight its effect when Congress enacted the Bayanihan To Heal as One Act (RA11469). This is only 1.4% of our GDP. Recently, the economic managers wanted to propose a higher package of P1.49T, but that is still less than 10% of GDP.

The budget presented during the hearings were comparable to a one-foot dike on a river about to be runover by a ten-feet surge of a raging water. The small dike cannot stop the 10-feet surge.

We believe that the government could do better than this. What we need is a robust budget to fight the economic effects of corona virus. Robust enough to address the enemy that is about to set us back 10 years if we will not act.

NAGKAISA urges government to augment wage subsidy and all workers be ensured of income guarantee. The SBWS has more stringent requirements which are impossible to be complied with between April 16 to 30 because the documents needed are locked in offices which cannot be accessed to while under ECQ.

More than majority of the people in need are getting more frustrated of the slow and confusing delivery scheme of the promised help.

Asking workers to return to work without the most effective mass testing method may end up wasting whatever gains we had during the quarantine.

To pick-up the pieces of a broken world, NAGKAISA lays down the following pressing demands

1. Stop all the killings, end harassment of relief workers, exercise compassion for quarantine violators and reinstate the ceasefire.

2. Show the public a clear national plan not only for defeating the virus but also in protecting the people from the impacts of economic recession.

3. Provide universal support like an income guarantee equivalent to the prevailing minimum wage or P10k, whichever is higher, to avoid the bureaucratic bottlenecks created by targeted support.

4. Improve protection to all our health workers who are disproportionately victimized by the virus and start building up the public health care delivery by:

a. Hiring more full time health care workers

b. Regularizing all contract of service and job order health care workers

c. Stop the use of volunteers by recognizing and compensating all Barangay Health Workers

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

6. Ensure free medical services should workers be infected.

7. Covid 19 be considered as an occupational disease — SSS and ECC must provide guidelines on the availment of sickness benefit in the light of COVID 19 pandemic.

8. Govt to subsidize or grant tax incentives to those employers who grant hazards pay — P500/day or 25% of worker’s, whichever is higher — to their employees.

9. Ensure labor conditionalities to any stimulus package to prevent massive lay-off and avert economic recession.

10. Creation of Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

11. Consult with trade unions and other people’s organizations

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