Labor group wants ‘new normal’ in workplace that’s not abusive

Aika Rey
Labor group wants ‘new normal’ in workplace that’s not abusive
'Wala tayong balak bumalik sa dating normal. Pangit 'yon. Exploitative 'yon. Abusive 'yon,' says Sentro secretary-general Josua Mata

MANILA, Philippines – As the Philippines transitions to a “new normal” brought by the pandemic, labor group Sentro on Friday, May 1, said that Filipinos should not return to work under the old scheme.

“Ano pang itinuro sa atin ng delubyong ito? Kinakailangan natin ng isang bagong normal. Wala tayong balak bumalik sa dating normal. Pangit ‘yon. Exploitative ‘yon. Abusive ‘yon. Ang gusto natin ay bagong normal na kung saan inaalagaan ang isa’t isa,” Sentro secretary-general Josua Mata said in an online rally.

(What did this crisis teach us? That we need a new normal. Let’s not go back to the old normal. That was ugly. It was exploitative. It was abusive. What we want is a new normal where we look after each other.)

Senator Risa Hontiveros echoed the labor groups call, saying that the coronavirus pandemic helped the government realize that the oppressive system to workers was a failure. Hontiveros joined the Labor Day virtual rally led by Nagkaisa Labor Coalition and Sentro.

“We cannot go back to that system. Simula ngayon, tayo ay dapat nagpapanday ng isang sistemang may pagrespeto sa kapakanan, karapatan at kagalingan ng mga manggagawa. (Right now, we should craft a system with respect to the welfare, rights, and ingenuity of our workers),” Hontiveros said.

“There is a new normal and this should include better working conditions and the full protection of all workers,” said Hontiveros, who committed to work towards that goal as a legislator.

Human rights lawyer Chel Diokno added that the issues on endo (end-of-contract), just wage, and the health care and justice system should be addressed, after the government has seen the gaps due to the pandemic.

“Dapat talagang puntiryahin na ang mga totoong problema ng ating bayan na parang gusto nilang kalimutan natin. (The government should really start focusing on addressing the real problems of our nation, that they wanted us to forget),” Diokno said at the virtual rally.

He reiterated that human rights must still be upheld even if the Philippines is under a public health emergency.

“Kung wala ‘yung disiplina na igalang ang karapatan ng lahat ay parang naging hayop na lang ang lipunan natin, (If there’s no discipline in respecting our rights, then our society is no different from animals)” said Diokno, alluding to the government’s favorite word: “discipline.”

Workers’ demands

In a manifesto released on Labor Day, Nagkaisa demanded 11 things from the government, which is preparing for the time when all Filipinos are allowed to work under strict health protocols.

Nagkaisa said these matters are urgent, to ensure that workers are protected and that a second wave of transmission will not come from the workplace. Their demands include the following:

  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 P10,000, 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:
    1. Hiring more full time health care workers;
    2. Regularizing all contract of service and job order health care workers;
    3. 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 to be considered as an occupational disease, and that the Social Security System and Employees’ Compensation Commission must provide guidelines on the availment of sickness benefit in the light of COVID-19 pandemic;
  8. Government to subsidize or grant tax incentives to those employers who grant hazards pay – P500 a day or 25% of worker’s salary, whichever is higher – to their employees;
  9. Ensure labor conditions to any stimulus package to prevent massive lay-off and avert economic recession;
  10. Creation of Center for Disease Control and Prevention; and
  11. Consult with trade unions and other people’s organizations.

Several labor groups staged online rallies on Friday, as part of their celebration for Labor Day, while others held small protests and noise barrages within their communities.

According to Kilusang Mayo Uno, more than 50 people have been arrested for allegedly violating lockdown rules. (READ: Cops arrest labor leaders keeping distance during Labor Day protest– Rappler.com

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Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at aika.rey@rappler.com.