labor rights

Advocates urge government to implement labor policies adapting to climate crisis

Waya Lao

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Advocates urge government to implement labor policies adapting to climate crisis
In a chat forum in the Rappler Communities app, labor advocates stress that the climate crisis is interconnected with labor, and that the government should implement policies that will address both issues

MANILA, Philippines – With worsening weather conditions in the Philippines, labor advocates urged the government to implement better labor policies to promote the safety and welfare of service workers who primarily experience the effects of climate change. 

In a recent Rappler report in April, groups representing workers in construction and public services have said that some of their members have suffered heat stroke and difficulty in coping with the heat, whether on the field or in an office. To address this, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) advised employers to practice safety measures and adjust working hours depending on the extremities of the weather. 

However in a chat forum held in the Rappler Communities app, some labor advocates expressed that these recommendations are just Band-aid solutions in adapting to weather changes. 

While Labor Advisory No. 8 exists – a policy that caters to the health and safety of workers under heat stress – Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino president Luke Espiritu said the law is inefficient since there is a lack of proper government response to the risks of laborers’ working conditions. Given the gaps, these resolutions are empty and useless, he said.

Challenges of service workers

During the warm and dry season, the heat-affected workers are public school teachers, sanitation inspectors, and construction workers, among others who often do field work. As official employees, these members of the workforce are supposed to benefit from Labor Advisory No. 8.

However, National Union of Food Delivery Riders-SENTRO Spokesperson John Jay Chan said that some service workers such as delivery riders are still not considered as employees with benefits. Due to this “disguised employment,” delivery riders are not entitled to health insurance from their companies.  

Chan also said that some riders have to cut their working hours short just to prevent heat-stress, in effect, also cutting their income.

In contrast, a resident based in Saudi Arabia shared that when the heat index reaches 40 degrees Celsius in her host country, service workers are excused from work and can still receive their pay. She said that this policy should also be adapted in the Philippines. 

In line with this, Chan emphasized the urgent need for improved policies on occupational safety.

More comprehensive policies

Amid calls for better safety policies, Espiritu said that it is not enough for employers alone to provide safety protocols at the workplace. He stressed that the climate crisis is interconnected with labor, and that the government should implement laws that will address both issues. 

One recommendation is the transition to a zero carbon economy. This implies an inclusive approach to a shift from commercial use of fossil fuels to renewable energy, considering its environmental sustainability.

Meanwhile, Chan also added that the government should strengthen its implementation of existing laws and consider a joint resolution for service workers that would entail certain protocols under extreme weather.

To help promote this, he encouraged ordinary citizens to continue spreading awareness of unfair working conditions by supporting labor initiatives such as the Freelance Protection Bill and POWERR Bill which both seek to elevate working standards in the informal sector. 

“We can also push or pressure these companies to provide fair working conditions that cover fare rates, insurances, due process, grievance mechanism and other basic labor standards. If they [government] are really sincere, it should not just be about publicity, workers must truly be protected,” Chan added in a mix of Filipino and English. 

The community chat was done in the liveable cities chat room in the Rappler Communities app. This effort is part of the Make Manila Liveable campaign which aims to tackle and address issues concerning liveability and quality of life. Learn more about the movement here. – with reports from Ian Capoquian/ 

Ian Capoquian is a Rappler intern from Adamson University. He is a fourth year student taking up Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Currently, he serves as the Editor-in-Chief of The Adamson Chronicle, the official student publication of his university.

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Waya Lao

Waya Lao is a community and civic engagement specialist under MovePH, Rappler’s civic engagement arm.