[Press Release] Lockdown order lack guarantees for workers’ welfare, civil liberties -PM

The labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) asked that guarantees be put in place in the so-called ‘community quarantine’ imposed on Metro Manila in order to protect workers’ welfare and civil liberties.

“President Duterte’s order to lockdown Metro Manila for 30 days opens the way for workers’ rights and civil liberties to be violated. Freedom of assembly should not be sacrificed since community organizations and civil society groups should be able to meet and deliberate on urgent matters including a proper covid response,” stated Rene Magtubo, PM national chair.

He added that “We wanted to hear President Duterte mobilize public and private resources, especially health personnel, to combat covid but instead all we heard is the mobilization of police and soldiers. Will checkpoints be manned by health workers with test kits or just police with guns?”

Magtubo explained that “Workers’ welfare is also bound to be sacrificed in the lockdown order that lacks clear guidelines and a labor-first perspective. Workers living outside NCR are supposed to allowed to enter and leave the capital as long as they have company ID’s. But informalization of labor—like the practice of endo—means there are numerous workers without proper ID’s and employment contracts. Many construction workers who are employed on an informal basis do not have proper documentation. Finally, informal workers like street vendors obviously do not have ID’s. The lockdown means they will not be able to travel to work and earn a living which will lead to health issues and vulnerability to covid.”

The group reiterated its call for the DOLE to issue an order mandating a worker-first policy on the employment impact of covid. “We do not accept management prerogative in implementing dismissals or flexible arrangements like forced leaves or work rotation. First of all, the DOLE must issue a determination that there is a real impact on the company. After which, any flexible work arrangement must be negotiated with duly-elected workers’ representatives or the union in case the company is organized,” Magtubo insisted.

The group also proposed the following concrete measures:
1. Paid leave for workers to be shouldered by employers and the government;
2. Pay for workers put on forced quarantine to be shouldered by employers and the government;
3. Implement work from home arrangements, in applicable jobs, without diminution of wages and benefits;
4. Provision of personal protective equipment for all health and allied workers in the frontline of covid response;
5. Living pension for senior citizens since the elderly are more prone to infection;
6. Shift build-build-build budget to health in order to build more hospitals, provide testing and treatment facilities, hire more health workers;
7. Health tax on the wealthy—as part of CITIRA—to fund universal health care.”

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