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.


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