MANILA, Philippines – Labor group Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) on Monday, March 9, urged employers to refrain from using the novel coronavirus outbreak as an “excuse” to fire workers.
TUCP made the call over growing fears of “massive unemployment” spurred by the rising number of coronavirus cases in the Philippines.
The group appealed to the government for support, particularly for workers who are forced to stay at home or have difficulty going to work.
“Layoffs should be the last option in all of this,” TUCP spokesperson Alan Tanjusay told reporters in a press conference on Monday.
TUCP earlier estimated some 7,000 layoffs could take place in the next 6 months as the coronavirus crisis deepens. It made the forecast after Philippine Airlines terminated 300 employees, citing losses incurred because of canceled flights due to travel bans, which have severely impacted businesses.
The group said other industries may follow suit and lay off non-essential workers. In particular, it expressed concern for workers in the manufacturing sector, which often observes a “no work, no pay” policy.
Aside from manufacturing, TUCP warned that the country’s agriculture and logistics sectors may also be hit hard as exports could decrease following the rise in coronavirus cases in the Philippines. (READ: ‘A mess’: Coronavirus economic impact on Philippines worse than projected)
“Let’s hope these are not self-fulfilling numbers…. If you expose workers to wage loss, they will be at the mercy of COVID-19 and poverty,” Tanjusay said.
He added that while TUCP has not yet received reports of layoffs, some workers reported they were made to observe flexible work arrangements.
What DOLE, employers can do: TUCP urged the labor department to convene all national and regional industry tripartite councils to conduct rapid assessments and risk analyses, as well as craft guidelines to help workers cope.
Tripartite councils – composed of employers, workers, and labor officials – should immediately meet, TUCP said, as they are most familiar with problems faced by businesses and workers, and can come up with preventive measures to save jobs. (READ: Cebu Pacific execs take pay cut to save jobs as coronavirus hurts profits)
Aside from this, TUCP appealed to employers to provide free protective equipment like masks and alcohol for workers in frontline services, such as retail and fast-food chains. The group also advised employers to continuously sanitize business premises.
As of Monday, the Philippines has recorded 20 confirmed coronavirus cases. These include one death – a Chinese tourist – which was the first fatality to be recorded outside of China.
Worldwide, the death toll has exceeded 3,800, while more than 109,000 people have been infected in over 100 countries. – Rappler.com