Thursday, April 30, 2020

Labor coalition hits “Emperor Joey Concepcion” for ‘virus-resilient poor’ comment

Workers groups find not only bad taste but also class insult from Presidential adviser Joey Concepcion’s remark Wednesday that the poor may now be allowed to go back to work as they seem to be resilient to viruses.

This is a total disregard of the equal protection clause of the Bill of Rights. His reason is highly discriminatory to the working poor – are hardest hit by the Covid-19 crisis and therefor need more protection than ever.

“Here we have a Presidential adviser who talks like an emperor. Roman emperors of ancient history had forced their slaves to continue building roads, aqueducts, monuments and palaces even during pandemics. It is not because the emperor saw immortality in the poor but simply because slaves are disposable subjects,” said the group in a statement.

According to Concepcion, many of the poor are somehow resilient to the virus, may be because they are so used to so much exposure that they have better immunity than the rich who are sheltered in well- protected environment. As a strategy he simply proposed sheltering the healthy and isolating the infected.

Nagkaisa! slammed Concepcion for his shameless display of class privilege at a time the labor movement is demanding strongly for a #BalikTrabahongLigtas or a safe return to work policy, mindful of the grave consequences of massive infection and reinfection from unsafe workplaces, transportation and public spaces.

Aimed at convincing the public that they are working to ensure the safety of workers, it is Concepcion who pushed for the Palace’s adoption of rapid antibody test to be implemented under business groups’ Project Antibody Rapid Test Kits (ARK).

Contrary to this, labor groups are pushing for a a more reliable PCR-based mass testing as well as full Philhealth coverage, and business’ full compliance to OSH law and other labor standards.

“Balik Trabahong Ligtas” is one of the Labor Day demands of Nagkaisa. This requires the issuance of a new DOLE Department Order requiring employers to negotiate with the unions a comprehensive Covid-19 protocol at the company and industry levels that would ensure a safe working condition. The other demands include “Ayudang Sapat Para sa Lahat” and building up the capacity of our public healthcare system, among others.

With all roads remaining closed, Nagkaisa and other labor groups are shifting to different forms of online protest.

“Kahit lockdown ay may laban pa rin tayo onlayn,” Nagkaisa said.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Nagkaisa statement on deporting OFW

April 26, 2020

Hon Silvestre H. Bello III
Department if Labor and Employment
Intramuros, Manila

Dear Sec. Bello,

It has come to our knowledge that our Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Taiwan is initiating a deportation proceedings against an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW), Elanel Egot Ordidor, a caregiver employed in Yunlin County, Taiwan.

We went to view two of her postings and we found them neither defamatory or libelous. Personal hurt or embarrassment, even if real, is not automatically equivalent to libel or defamation.

Freedom of speech and of the press as well as of peaceful assembly are preferred rights among other rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and are nearly absolute against public officials (N.Y. TIMES vs Sullivan).

The Nagkaisa holds that Ms. Ordidor statements involved the interest of society and the maintenance of good government. These demand freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think in full discussion of public affairs.

Complete liberty to comment on the conduct of public official is said to be a scalpel in the case of free speech. Our public officials may suffer under a hostile and an unjust accusation -- but we submit "the wound can be assuaged with the balm of a clear conscience", to borrow the words of Justice Malcom (U.S. vs Bustos).

Thus, a person in public office "must not be too thin-skinned with reference to comment upon his official acts."

We are not aware of other postings and how Ms. Ordidor allegedly defamed or libeled the President, but surely something is amiss when the POLO starts taking arbitary action to have an OFW arrested in foreign land and deported without due process. As we understand, libel cannot be filed by any person aside from the one defamed according to the last paragraph of Article 360 of the Revised Penal Code. Is there a case filed by President Duterte, the one whom the defamations were allegedly directed at, against Ms. Ordidor? Is there any case filed at all? Is cyberlibel being added as an additional ground for deportation of an OFW?

Is the POLO now authorized to cause arrest in foreign land and effect deportation? What provision of law is this authority anchored.

These are just few of the questions hounding this particular case and we suspect there is irregularity in this action.

In this view, may we request your good office to conduct an administrative investigation and clarify this matter?

If this reported initiative of deportation is true, this is highly deplorable and the responsible officer must be disciplined and held accountable. The alleged "nasty and malevolent" postings against President Duterte will not justify this illegal act of deportation initiated by our POLO - which is mandated to give ample protection to, and not be instrument of harrassment against, OFWs under its jurisdiction (see Art 21 of Labor Code).

Further, more importantly, we respectfully urge your a dangerous precedent that would put our OFW's inherent and constitutional right to free speech and to travel in jeopardy.

We look forward to your favorable action. Thank you and warm regards.

Sonny Matula

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Extended or modified ECQ? #BalikTrabahongLigtas, an equitable new normal is what we want – labor group

Today, the president is expected to announce his decision on what to do with the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

For the Nagkaisa! labor coalition, to extend or to modify the ECQ are false choices for the working class. Sadly government is unable to display ability to provide the requirements for either of these two options.

Should the lockdown be extended due to the fact that the virus has yet to be contained, workers have to face the reality that the government has been consistently failing to provide its promised aid to the poor and the near poor, many of whom they mistakenly categorize as the “middle class.”

After 5 weeks of lockdown, the president himself, in his latest report to Congress, admitted that only 49% of the target beneficiaries were actually provided with its minimal aid. Majority of the people in need, in other words, are getting more frustrated of the slow, intricate and short-circuited administration of the promised aid.

Should the lockdown be modified to allow some workers back to work, workers also face the grim reality that both the government and many employers have yet to prove that they can actually provide a safe working environment for everyone as the level of protection, even for our frontliners and those who were allowed to remain working in essential establishments, are sorely lacking.

Asking workers to return to work without the most effective mass testing method may end up wasting whatever gains we had during the quarantine.

In effect, government and employers are irresponsibly gambling with the lives of the working class to save the inequitable economy that we have.

This is why, before we even talk of what to do with ECQ, Nagkaisa is pressing for the following demands:

1. Show the public a clear action battle plan not only for defeating the virus but also in protecting the people from the impacts of economic recession

2. Provide universal support like an income guarantee equivalent to the prevailing minimum wage or P10k whichever is higher to avoid the bureaucratic bottlenecks created by targeted support.

3. Improve protection to all our health workers who are disproportionately victimized by the virus and start building up the public health care delivery by hiring full time healthcare workers and regularizing all HCWs under contract of service arrangements.

4. 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.

5. Ensure free medical services should workers be infected.

The administration should address these challenges in the soonest possible time. Nangkaisa! also calls on government to consult with trade unions and other people’s organizations — listen to their calls and work with them in addressing the challenges of this pandemic.

Clearly, we can no longer go back to normal. Returning back to depressed working conditions without labor rights protection is not what we envision.

If we are to restart the economy, we might as well build a better one, an economy that is equitable enough to ensure that everyone shares the fruits of economic developments, and sustainable enough to mitigate even the impacts of climate change and future pandemics.
Nagkaisa! is set to unveil is comprehensive proposals before May 1.


Sunday, April 19, 2020

Questions for the two Joeys: Do you have a better plan for the workers?

Are the two Joeys trying to become the ‘corporate white knights’ of the Duterte administration?

They seem to be, according to the labor coalition Nagkaisa! which presumes businessman Joey Concepcion and Albay Rep Joey Salceda to be the corporate voices in the Duterte administration.

Nagkaisa! said, it was Joey Concepcion who, in the dead of the night, proposed to the President the use of rapid antibody testing for workers whom business crave to return to work to revive their industries.

Rep. Joey Salceda, on the other hand, has proposed a P350B bailout package for big corporations with another proposal to grant a special emergency power for the President to fast track the build-build-build (BBB) projects.

“It’s all business that we hear from the two as they clearly were advancing corporate interest as top priority in the government’s recovery plans at the expense of workers’ safety and well-being in the immediate and long term,” said the group.

Nagkaisa! argued that the Concepcion proposal will send millions of workers back to work as unprotected herds subjected to unreliable antibody tests to be conducted at workplace level.

“Only the world-tested PCR-based testing method can give that reliable assurance. Without this method of mass testing, the Concepcion proposal can only be considered as safe for business but not for the workers,” said the group.

To labor group said it would be better and more cost-efficient for big business to help fund the national and local governments in establishing and operating additional PCR-based testing facilities that are accessible to workers all over the country.

As to the Salceda proposal, Nagkaisa! said state funds are much needed for income and employment guarantees for workers, support for MSMEs, and the building up of our healthcare system and hiring of additional health workers.

“Why bailout big business when they forever have access to local and international capital markets? Likewise, we see no need for new emergency powers for the President as the BBB budget, we demand, is better realigned to priority programs stated above as subways, railroads and airports are not the pressing needs of our people at this point in time,” concluded Nagkaisa!.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Instead of a sweeping ban on deployment abroad, nagkaisa urges gov't to hire health workers in the civil service

The Nagkaisa! Labor Coalition believes that building up our public health system is one of the most important lessons of this pandemic.

The fact that our health system is now overwhelmed when we have yet to reach the peak of infections proved that privatization has only imperilled the government’s capacity to respond to the pandemic.

Clearly there is a need to rapidly increase the country’s number of hospital beds per 1,000 persons and be at par at least with our ASEAN neighbours. This requires not just filling up staff requirements of our public hospitals but also building new ones.

It is for this reason that Nagkaisa! insists that the government hire health workers in the civil service and not rely on volunteers -- or resort on a sweeping ban on deployment of all health workers including those who are already employed abroad.

The DOH appears to have taken no effort to hire health workers in the civil service despite authority given under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (Sec 4(m) of RA 11469).

The irony is that despite having the authority and enough budget, estimated at P75B for health and support services, no tangible effort or concrete action was done to recruit medical professionals in our civil service.

At the DOH official website only 15 vacancies are posted (3 part-time) as available to be filled up. Yet, government is banning and "offloading" from their flights hundreds of workers employed abroad in the past few days.

DOH is more active in recruiting volunteers with P500/day allowance rather than hiring with compensation in the civil service.

Nagkaisa! recommends the following:

1. Instead of a ban, Nagkaisa! suggests that medical and medical professionals and other necessary workers may be hired by DOH and be part of the civil service. In Article II, Section 4, the Constitution provides that all citizens may be required, under conditions provided by law, to render personal civil service.

3. Government must take care of our local private health workers if we would like them to remain in the country. They should also be given hazard pay of P500/day like that of their public sector counterpart or 25% of their basic salary, whichever is higher.

4. Also, DOH volunteers now should be upgraded and hired as health workers with salaries, depending on their qualifications, equivalent to the salary grades (SG) of their functions, like a nurses to SG 15 to 18 or a doctors SG 21 to 24.

5. Nagkaisa! demands that the GAA for 2020 onwards must prioritize health expenditures to match global benchmark of not lower than 10% of the GDP. Currently, the country is spending only 4.6% of the GDP for health service.

Further, Nagkaisa! also wants to get apprised of the details of the National Action Plan so workers know their place in that plan and to see if there is a particular space there where labor and other sectors' participation would matter.

DFA chief hits deployment ban on PH health workers

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. says the ban violates the right to travel and the sanctity of contracts, and applies a punishment not previously imposed

MANILA, Philippines — Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Saturday said he would fight an order by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) temporarily suspending the deployment of Filipino health care workers abroad, denouncing the move as an “abomination.”

“Filipino NHS nurses were stopped at NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) from returning to their contracted jobs in the UK. This violates the Constitution in 3 ways: right to travel, inviolability of contracts, punitive ex-post facto resolution,” Locsin, a lawyer, said on Twitter.

The NHS, or the National Health Service, is the publicly-funded healthcare system in the United Kingdom.

The POEA, which regulates the deployment of overseas Filipino workers, issued the order on April 2 but only made it public on Friday.

The aim is “to prioritize human resource allocation for the national health care system,” according to the resolution posted on Twitter by Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Brigido Dulay.

The ban will remain in place until the Philippines ends its state of emergency and countries that would hire the medical personnel lift their coronavirus-related travel restrictions.

The government has also suspended negotiations for bilateral labor agreements covering government-to-government deployment of health workers.

There was no immediate comment from the POEA or the Department of Labor and Employment.

UK envoy airs call

Many people aired their complaints to Locsin on social media, saying that doctors, nurses, other hospital workers and medical professionals leaving for aboard, including those returning to their jobs after a vacation here, were barred at the Naia.

“I do hope we can resolve this issue that brilliant Filipino healthcare workers, already employed by the NHS, can get back to the UK to carry on with their jobs,” British ambassador to Manila Daniel Pruce responded to Locsin, also on Twitter.

Locsin immediately expressed his sympathy and support for the health workers.

“You really do not want to be stuck here under the regime of people who don’t know anything,” he said.

The secretary said he would raise the issue to the Cabinet and the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), the government adhoc policymaking body to contain the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“We will fight the ban in the IATF. We will fight the ban in the Cabinet. We will fight shit for brains. We will never surrender our constitutional right to travel and our contractual right to work where there is need for our work,” Locsin said.

‘Just an opinion’

He said he wanted the POEA resolution, which was “just an opinion,” included on the IATF-EID agenda on Monday.

“No discussion. … Just a raising of hands—for our people or against our people. Also, no one talks who is not a Cabinet member,” he added.

When told about Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III’s claim that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) representative at the POEA governing board did not object to the resolution on the deployment ban, Locsin replied: “Well I, as SECRETARY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, object to it and fill up the silence of the DFA representative. I REJECT THIS ABOMINATION.”

Sen. Joel Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee, said the government could suspend the deployment of Filipino healthcare workers but must ensure they will have jobs in the health care sector in the country.

It should study the impact of its ban on doctors, nurses, and other healthcare personnel with existing contracts abroad, he added.

“If our government presses forward with the sweeping ban on the exit of Filipino healthcare workers, even if they have live contracts, our labor department, in coordination with the Department of Health, should be prepared to take them into our healthcare system at the very least,” Villanueva said in a text message.

‘Recall the resolution’
“Otherwise, if there is no pro-active and parallel effort to track them down and encourage them to work in our healthcare system, the government should rethink its policy, and instead allow the exit of those healthcare workers with existing contracts, and the ban should only cover new contracts,” he said.

Labor groups also slammed the DOLE for the ban.

The Nagkaisa labor coalition demanded that Bello recall the POEA resolution, which temporarily suspended the deployment of 14 categories of health workers due to the national emergency.

“We are placing our health workers in a state of limbo or uncertainty,” Nagkaisa chair Sonny Matula said in a statement on Saturday.

”We cannot just ban health workers from going abroad to work when it is not clear whether DOLE or the Department of Health will utilize their skills or they will be hired or compensated during the temporary deployment suspension,” he added.

Matula warned that if the order is not rescinded, the affected health workers were at risk of being blacklisted due to breach of contract.

Under the order, doctors, nurses, microbiologists, pharmacists and medical technologists, among others, cannot leave the country in “support [of] the national objective of controlling the spread of COVID-19 through the regulation [of their] deployment.”

But it did not specify where they may be temporarily assigned other than that they would be prioritized in the “human resource allocation for the national health care system.”

For national interest

Under Section 5 of Republic Act No. 8042, or the Migrant Workers Act of 1995, the POEA governing board, after consultation with the DFA, may terminate or impose a ban on the deployment of migrant workers “in pursuit of national interest or when public welfare so requires.”

Locsin said the DFA representative in the POEA board “couldn’t do anything but invoke standing IATF resolution excluding OFWS with work contracts from any restriction or ban.”

He opposed about two weeks earlier a proposal by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez to suspend the deployment of Filipino nurses abroad amid the public health emergency. - By: Jerome Aning - Reporter / @JeromeAningINQ Philippine Daily Inquirer

Deployment ban on health workers to be reviewed

MANILA, Philippines — The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) might take a second look at the ban on deployment of health workers abroad after Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. called it unconstitutional.

“A review of the temporary deployment ban abroad of medical and health professionals may be included in the agenda of the IATF meeting on Monday, April 13,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said yesterday. “I’m sure that the IATF will be able to resolve the issue immediately.”

Guevarra’s statement came after Locsin said on Twitter (@teddyboylocsin) that he “will fight the ban in Cabinet” because it is unconstitutional.

Locsin noted that some Filipino nurses were stopped on Friday at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) from boarding their flights back to their contracted jobs in the United Kingdom supposedly due to the deployment ban.

Guevarra, a member of the IATF, said that Locsin’s point of view is only one of the arguments that may be taken into consideration at the IATF meeting tomorrow as he emphasized that the issue is best discussed “with his colleagues in the Cabinet-level IATF.”

“I have clear legal position on this constitutional issue, but this is a matter that is best discussed or reviewed internally among us in the Cabinet, in case there is any disagreement,” he said.

Bureau of Immigration (BI) spokesperson Dana Sandoval said that they have already started implementing the deployment ban upon the directive of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

Sandoval said they refer every encounter with departing health workers to the POEA officer-on-duty at the airport.

“We don’t have the data now because it’s the POEA that decides whether the Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) or the POEA clearance is valid or not. We refer the matter to them whenever encountered,” she said.

The POEA recently suspended the deployment of health workers abroad “to support the national objective of controlling the spread of COVID-19” amid the spike of confirmed cases in the Philippines.

In a resolution approved on April 2, the POEA governing board temporarily suspended the deployment of medical workers while the country is under the state of public health emergency due to coronavirus disease outbreak. It was unclear if the resolution covers those with existing contracts.

But on Friday, Filipino nurses due to return to UK were reportedly offloaded from their flights.

According to one of the nurses, they were instead asked to volunteer while waiting for the ban to be lifted.

While she understands the need for medical workers in the Philippines, she expressed concern that she would be in breach of contract if she fails to return to her work in the UK.

Locsin said the government could only ban those whose education it financially supported.

“What is this? Have idiots ever heard of Constitutional right to travel, especially to get the hell out of here and get decent jobs and decent pay abroad,” he said.

He also debunked Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III’s claim that the Department of Foreign Affairs representative to the POEA governing board did not object to the resolution.

“Well I, as secretary of foreign affairs, object to it and fill up the silence of the DFA representative. I reject this abomination,” said Locsin.

“We will never surrender our constitutional right to travel and our contractual right to work where there is need for our work,” he added.

The Filipino Nurses United (FNU) and Nagkaisa Labor Coalition decried the imposition of the ban.

“Before imposing the ban, the government should have made sure that there will be just salary, security of tenure and proper working conditions for those affected,” FNU secretary general Jocelyn Andamo said.

She said there is no clear pronouncement on how the workers would be utilized on the local front.

Those with existing contract with foreign employers, she pointed out, should not be covered by the ban.

She also stressed that the answer to the shortage of manpower in the local front is the “mass hiring” of health care workers.

The Nagkaisa Labor Coalition said the labor department should lift the ban.

Nagkaisa chair Sonny Matula said the ban is tantamount to “involuntary servitude” which is prohibited in the Constitution.

“We are placing our health workers in a state of limbo or uncertainty. We cannot just ban health workers to go abroad to work when it is not clear whether the Department of Labor and Employment or Department of Health will utilize their skills or they will be hired or compensated during the temporary deployment suspension,” Matula added.

The ban, however, has the support of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA).

According to PMA president Jose Santiago, there is really a need to “temporarily restrict” the deployment of healthcare workers amid the looming domestic shortage.

“I go for some restrictions in the deployment because we need our healthcare workers now more than ever. This is a temporary situation that we are facing and Filipino patients need us. They have to serve the country first, before anything else,” he said.

In an interview, Santiago said he strongly believes that Filipino healthcare workers will not run out of opportunities abroad in the next five years or even after the COVID-19 crisis is over.

“Maybe the ban can be implemented until May or when we flatten the curve. I believe there will be more employment opportunities abroad even after COVID-19. But for now, our country needs us,” he added. – Robertzon Ramirez (The Philippine Star ) Janvic Mateo, Sheila Crisostomo

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Labor group urges DOLE to review deployment ban on certain healthcare workers

The Nagkaisa Labor Coalition on Saturday urged the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to review the order on the temporary overseas deployment ban of selected healthcare workers amid the threat of the coronavirus disease.

The coalition said Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III should consider recalling Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Governing Board Resolution No. 09-2020.

“[We] call on Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello to review, recall, and hold in abeyance the implementation of the ban of health workers to travel and work abroad,” Nagkaisa Chairman Sonny Matula said in a statement.

Based on the POEA resolution, the selected health care workers cannot be deployed “until the national state of emergency is lifted and until COVID-19-related travel restrictions are lifted at the destination countries.”

Matula said that such an order places the Filipino health workers in “a state of limbo or uncertainty.”

“We cannot just ban health workers to go abroad to work when it is not clear whether the DOLE or DOH (Department of Health) will utilize their skills or they will be hired or compensated during the temporary deployment suspension,” Matula said.

The resolution covers the occupations of medical doctor/physician, nurse, microbiologist, molecular biologist, medical technologist, clinical analyst, respiratory therapist, pharmacist, laboratory technician, x-ray/radiologic technician, nursing assistant/nursing aid, operator of medical equipment, supervisor of health services and personal care, and repairman of medical-hospital equipment.

“The universal Declaration of Human Rights has proclaimed in Article 13 that every one has the right to leave any country including his own, and to return to his country,” said Matula.

“Other than a violation of the right to travel, this ban also is problematic and might be an order imposing an involuntary servitude prohibited by the fundamental law. Under Article III, section 18(2), the Constitution speaks: “No involuntary servitude in any form shall exist except as a punishment of a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted,” he added.

The labor leader also said the ban caused the “offloading from their flights of a number of nurses and other health workers vacationing in the country and returning back to their work abroad.”

“These returning health workers may lose their livelihood for breach of contract and may be banned permanently from employment in their host countries. This is unfair for these workers already employed abroad,” he said. - By Analou De Vera

Nagkaisa calls labor secretary to review, recall health workers ban to work abroad

The NAGKAISA calls on Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello to review, recall and hold in abeyance the implementation of the ban of health workers to travel and work abroad.

The labor department has banned doctors, nurses and other health workers from leaving the country to work in a bid to throw more resources at its own coronavirus outbreak.

Other than a violation of the right to travel, this ban also is problematic and might be an order imposing an involuntarty servitude prohibited by the fundamental law. Under Article III, section 18(2), the Constitution speaks: "No involuntary servitude in any form shall exist except as a punishment of a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted."

The UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights has proclaimed in Article 13, that every one has the right to leave any country including his own, and to return to his country.

We are placing our health workers in state of limbo or uncertainty. We cannot just ban health workers to go abroad to work when it is not clear whether the DOLE or DOH will utilize their skills or they will be hired or compensated during the temporary deployment suspension.

Recently, the order also caused the offloading from their flights, of a number of nurses and other health workers vacationing in the country and returning back to their work abroad.

These returning health workers may lose their livelihood for breach of contract and may be banned permanently from employment in their host countries. This is unfair for these workers already employed abroad.
The Secretary might use PASEI vs Drilon giving Labor secretary power to restrict and regulate on overseas recruitment and placement under Article 36 of LC but such ban must not run contrary to the Constitution.

Government must take care of our local private health workers if we would like them to remain in the country. They should also be given hazard pay of P500.00/day like that of their public sector counterpart.

NAGKAISA also asks the DOH to review the P500/day allowance of volunteer health worker as this P500/day is below minimum standards, unfair and exploitative.

Also, Government needs to hire instead of asking volunteers. The volunteers now should be upgraded and hired as health workers with salaries, depending on their qualifications, equivalent to the salary grades (SG) of their functions, like a nurses to SG 15 to 18 or a doctors SG 21 to 24.###

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Nagkaisa calls to grant hazard pay to heroes, volunteers in private sector now in the frontlines

As the country commemorates the day of valor of the Filipinos in 1942 today (Araw ng Kagitingan), the NAGKAISA! Labor Coalition salutes the bravery and heroism of our frontliners - health workers, pharmaceutical workers, food workers, logistical workers, utility workers, LGU workers and all those working to to keep everyone else safe from the virus.

The biggest labor coalition in the country calls on the government and the private employers that all frontliners be given hazard pay of P500.00/day or 25% of their salary, whichever is higher.

These health workers in private hospital and medical institutions are not included in the payment of hazard pay under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (RA 11469) but they also deserve such reward for risking "life and limb".

Earlier Senator Risa Hontiveros advocated the inclusion of health workers, security guards and others service workers in the private sector who actually report to work be included in the Bayanihan Bill but the same was not considered in the enrolled bill.

We call on the President and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to use their “persuasive power” to convince the managements of private institutions and companies to give hazard pay to their employees who are now in the frontlines in the fight against the coronavirus 2019.

We urge Congress to urgently act and legislate hazard pay for private sector workers for the duration of covid 19 pandemic.

NAGKAISA also asks the DOH to review the P500/day allowance of volunteer health worker as this is unfair and exploitative. Government needs to upgrade such equivalent to the salary grades (SG) of their functions, like a nurse to SG 15 to 18 or a doctor SG 21 to 24.

We will appreciate more should the President or Congress will grant a P25,000 emergency incentive to reward ALL health workers who actually reported to work in this perilous time of covid 19.

All frontline workers in the private sector also request to augment their meal allowance for a healthy and strong body as they report to work.

NAGKAISA acknowledges the heroism of trade unions, CSOs and Church workers who distribute relief goods and cash assistance to daily wage earners, drivers and other workers in the informal economy.

We likewise acknowledge that some employers are already giving hazards pay higher than what we are asking -- NAGKAISA! is grateful to them.

Last week, the president signed Administrative Order No. 26 granting government personnel who physically report for work during the implementation of the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine be entitled to hazard pay.

Ang NAGKAISA! ay saludo sa lahat ng ating mga bayani sa frontlines!

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Labor groups laud Salceda for pushing for universal approach in government grant of subsidy

NAGKAISA! is in one mind with Rep. Salceda in pushing for a universal approach in dispensing government assistance during emergencies. His proposal for a universal basic income (UBI) approach resonates with our “AyudangSapatParaSaLahat” demand which consists mainly of income guarantee approximating the current minimum wage levels. We hope that his economic foresight on this subject can influence the policy direction of the Duterte administration during this period of extended lockdown and beyond.

Although NAGKAISA! is not yet calling for UBI as the concept is far radical than the P1,000 per month of emergency subsidy in the congressman’s mind, it is in this universal approach where we can unite so we can address the gridlock and patronage implementation of cash aid programs to differentiated sectors.

NAGKAISA! presumes that Rep. Salceda’s P1,000 per head proposal can only make a slight improvement in the current P5,000 –P8,000 level of government support, if not lower for some. UBI, on the other hand, is about providing living wage for life to everyone in society, especially the poor. It is a radical idea that everyone will surely be happy to support, except the wealthy. After all, UBI would require a massive redistribution of wealth that members of Congress, we doubt, will be willing to support.

It is for this reason that NAGKAISA! in the meantime is pushing for income guarantee equivalent to the prevailing minimum wage as a stepping stone towards UBI. It is for the same reason that we are seeking for social dialogue with the DOLE and hopefully, with Rep. Salceda.

NAGKAISA! is also demanding that government rework the budget for 2020 and craft the budget for 2021 with people’s participation to ensure that a universal income guarantee is realized.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Nagkaisa demands income guarantees; calls on legislators, high govt officials to donate salaries, allowances

Almost three weeks into the enactment of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, we find ourselves far from achieving its objectives.

Nagkaisa calls on government to deliver assistance with dispatch. A number of workers in several baranggays covered by ECQ had received minimal to zero assistance from government in the three weeks.

TUPAD has become yet another promise unfulfilled. CAMP, a cash assistance program for daily wage earners who continue to lose their income has so far failed owing to administrative difficulties related to filing and distribution. Meanwhile, the Emergency Subsidy Program (ESP) is a disaster waiting to happen as it threatens to tear up social cohesion at the community level.

While social distancing is necessary to stop the virus, this does not apply to governance. Ever since the lockdown, government has distanced itself from workers. social dialogue is experiencing a slow and painful death.

While the government doesn’t listen to workers, it now threatens to shoot those who speak against its ill-conceived policies. This tragedy is worse than Covid-19 itself.

Even if CAMP, TUPAD and ESP are fully implemented, it will fall short of providing workers with food and other basic necessities. Workers need to at least receive the minimum wage.

We call on government to allocate more funds and top-off its current assistance to ensure Income Guarantees for all that amounts to the prevailing minimum wage.

To ensure more funds are allotted to workers, legislators can help twice as much if they gave up their pork barrel in favor of the Covid-19 response and donated their salaries and allowances for the duration of the lockdown to daily wage earners and informal economy workers who lost their incomes and livelihoods. We make a similar call to all high government officials in the executive and legislative branches to make the sacrifice.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Labor groups press for universal system to avoid social divide in dispensing cash aid at household level

Aside from bureaucratic gridlock and the expected uneven dispersal of government’s assistance to different types of beneficiaries, labor groups under the Nagkaisa umbrella are now pressing for a universal system in providing covid-19 relief to locked down communities.

Calling it a guaranteed income for all, Nagkaisa proposes that a targeted system be replaced by a more efficient system of delivering social assistance which can only be done through universalization, which means everyone receives the same package of social amelioration.

In principle, everyone gets the same share – a minimum wage for all - if such a bottom line or standard is going to be adopted, explained the group.

“On the contrary, a targeted system which is what is being implemented today, is creating a social divide at the level of communities since while every Juan and Maria is presumed to be affected by the lockdown, not everyone is qualified for government assistance,” argued Nagkaisa.

Like any membership-based groups, Nagkaisa is receiving similar complaints and reports pointing to a common problem of not fairly receiving food packs, workers abandoned by their employers in applying for DOLE’s assistance, and now ensuring that everyone lands in the magic list of beneficiaries to receive cash assistance.

“It is an administrative nightmare to list down people based on different categories of beneficiaries and matched into different types of programs available just to avoid double-counting, or worse, to prevent one from sharing a plate with another. The effect is social segregation which runs counter to the social objectives defined by the Bayanihan Act,” said Nagkaisa.

The group said the AITF could still avoid this ugly scenario by opting for a universal rather than a targeted system of dispensing government assistance.

Nagkaisa holds that Filipinos need to heal as one and should not leave anyone.

Nagkaisa likewise believe that the existing databases from Philhealth, SSS, PSA, and DSWD can be worked out to implement a universal system rather than making a new list that will take more time to verify and scrutinize under a targeted system.

“As a consequence this would also mean additional funding, but since the President was already given a free hand to re-align the P4.1T budget for 2020, dividing the fund is a lesser problem to contend with than a divided people,” concluded Nagkaisa.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Labor Group to Gov’t: Get the Job Done, Stop Harassing Critics

Nagkaisa expresses its alarm over the widening witch-hunt now being conducted by the NBI against critics of the government.

While the Sec 6 (f) of the Bayanihan to Heal as One appears to empower the government to go after those peddling “false information on Covid-19 crisis,” applying it to all those exercising their constitutional right to freedom of expression is completely unacceptable and must immediately stop.

We also believe the government should welcome criticisms to immediately know its lapses and weakness so remedial measures can be adopted. As such, government should stop wasting time and energy, not to mention political capital, in shutting down its critics.

We would rather like to see the government spend all its time and energy to do the right thing - work to end the pandemic.