Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) admonished the return-to-work guidelines released last April 30 by the DOLE and DTI for not having enough teeth in ensuring the health and safety of workers eager to recover their livelihoods.
DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello released the Interim Guidelines on Workplace Prevention and Control of COVID-19 with the professed aim to assist private companies that are allowed to operate during the ECQ and GCQ in developing health protocols and standards in light of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Repeating the IATF’s recommendation to implement alternative work arrangements, these guidelines also encouraged disinfection processes, distribution and usage of PPE’s among workers, isolation areas for workers with symptoms, and monthly health reports submitted to DOLE regional offices. Workers are also discouraged from engaging in conversation, as well as prolonged face to face interaction.
BMP President Luke Espiritu said “most of these guidelines provide effective measures to prevent COVID-19 from entering the workplace. However, it is crucial to ask how DOLE and DTI will be able to ensure strict employer compliance when the guidelines stop short of establishing penalties for companies who refuse or do not comply?”
“If there’s anything that we can learn from the DOLE’s experience of administering the COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP) during the ECQ, it’s that the DOLE cannot rely on the ‘goodwill’ of employers in ensuring the safety and welfare of workers. How many Filipino workers have not received CAMP because their employers did not reach out to the DOLE and apply? DOLE relied on the voluntary application of employers as the sole machinery to administer CAMP to the workers. This resulted in the exclusion of millions of workers from being CAMP beneficiaries. It would be very unconscionable for the DOLE to trust employers to comply with these new return-to-work guidelines given their recent track record,” Espiritu added.
Espiritu bared that the solution to ensure the health and safety of both managements and workers going back to work is more worker involvement in planning and implementing safety guidelines.
“This is the same prescription BMP gave to Secretary Bello for CAMP. Allow unions and the rest of organized labor to share in the responsibility of safeguarding their workplaces from COVID-19. The track record of labor organizations during the ECQ is far superior to that of capitalists. They have organized relief operations and coordinated with communities to pressure government to properly distribute sufficient aid. The spirit of bayanihan, which the Duterte Administration is fond of peddling, is genuinely exemplified not in our politicians or employers, but in the activities of workers. They can surely enforce the return-to-work guidelines much better and more efficiently than their bosses because it is they who are more affected by the crisis” Espiritu bared.
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