Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Labor group warns of a second wave of infection unless robust OHS measures are made mandatory

NAGKAISA, the biggest labor coalition in the country, warns government that a second wave of Covid-19 infection is very likely now that ECQ will be lifted or modified in the country without mandating companies to institute robust health and safety measures for the workers the moment they leave their homes to report for duty.

While the DOLE and the DTI issued joint guidelines on preventing Covid-19 infection among the workforce, the guidelines fall short of truly ensuring a safe environment for workers. It doesn’t even prescribe penalties for any violations.

NAGKAISA believes that a Department Order should have been issued to compel employers to negotiate with their workers a comprehensive set of protocols to prevent Covid-19 and deal with it effectively should it occur, even before the ECQ is modified or is lifted.

Without compelling employers to negotiate with their workers, to involve them in designing OHS measures, compliance to these guidelines would be very very low.

This is expected to be so, especially when the company is unorganized.

Among the other major lapses of the joint DTI and DOLE Guidelines are:

- It failed to consider Sars-Cov-2 as an occupational hazard and Covid-19 as an occupational disease.
- It did not call for mandatory inspection of companies to ensure their compliance, especially in terms of providing physical distancing.
- It did not provide support should the worker end up infecting any member of her/his family.
- It did not provide for paid 14-day quarantine leaves for workers who may end up being suspected of having Covid-19.

The guidelines called for the use of PCR tests for workers. However, the ability of all companies to comply, especially the MSMEs, was never considered.

This has to be taken up seriously as even government’s own efforts to do mass testing is now severely hampered by the lack of supplies like swabs and re-agents.

NAGKAISA is asking the DOLE and the DTI to immediately rectify these errors by issuing a joint Department Order.

The coalition is requesting DOLE for a meeting to discuss the details of workers' concerns within the week.

NAGKAISA is also demanding that return to work protocols be included in the National Action Plan (NAP),
the details of which should be presented to the public.

Unless these lapses are rectified, NAGKAISA will blame no one else but this government and the employers for the next wave of illnesses and deaths among workers due to Covid-19.

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