Wednesday, July 8, 2020

What is the real picture and employment plan, Sec. Bello?

Nagkaisa Labor Coalition (NAGKAISA) chided the DOLE for its deafening silence on what it intends to do with the unprecedented levels of unemployment and mounting company closures and lay-offs the country is now going through.

“It has been more than a month since the PSA published its Labor Force Survey saying that unemployment rate rose to 17.7 percent accounting to 7.3 million unemployed Filipinos in April 2020. And yet, we have heard nothing from Sec. Bello on what the government’s plan is. Instead, all we hear are efforts to downplay the jobs crisis” labor lawyer Sonny Matula, Chairperson of NAGKAISA said.

“So what is the real picture, where is the employment plan, Sec. Bello?”asked Matula.

Nagkaisa was reacting to DOLE’s insistence of using its field reports as the only basis for describing the jobs crisis, claiming that the LFS “is just a survey.” Yesterday, DOLE reported that only 112,000 workers have been displaced so far from 4,354 companies reporting shutdown or have implemented retrenchments due the pandemic.

“There are more than 100,000 Jeepney drivers in Metro Manila alone, who have been displaced, many of whom were reduced to begging,” Nagkaisa convenor and Samahan ng Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) Chair Daniel Edralin.

Partido Manggagawa (PM) Chair Renato Magtubo is also baffled at the way DOLE is suppressing unemployment numbers, saying business groups themselves were refuting these claims, with the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) reporting 3.5 million job losses from its members alone.

“Para na ring si Roque si Bello na natutuwa sa mababang numero,” said Magtubo.

NAGKAISA is also incensed by DOLE’s silence on government policies that could lead to more job losses.

“50,000 OFWs have been repatriated, more than 160,000 are still stranded abroad, estimated job losses for OFWs ranges from 500,000 to 1 million, what’s the plan to reintegrate them?” questioned Matula.

“What is DOLE’s position on the government’s ill-conceived policy of phasing our PUJs during the time of pandemic? Why was DOLE unable to speak strongly in favor of ABS-CBN workers who stand to lose their jobs should the HOR committees decide not to grant a pro-worker franchise,” Matula said.

All these translates to massive decrease in aggregate demand, most likely due to loss of incomes from all the jobs and livelihoods lost due to the pandemic and the lockdowns. If unchecked, this will result in less production, less investment and minimal if not negative economic growth.

“This, in turn, will result in more losses in jobs and livelihood in both formal and informal economy,” argued Matula.

Nagkaisa! is urging the government to come up with an economic recovery package equivalent to at least 10% of the GDP.

Such an economic recovery package should be guided by an agro-industrial policy aimed at generating jobs to build up our public services as well as in sectors considered as new drivers of growth and those with higher multiplier effects.

The group is also pushing for income and employment guarantees for those permanently unemployed and temporarily displaced.

“The DOLE must not remain a by-stander in all these circumstances. Nagkaisa! would like to see a ‘better normal,” a different world of work, emerge in the aftermath of the pandemic,” said Matula.

Now more than ever is the best opportunity for workers, employers, government and civil society groups to come together to decide on some fundamental changes to achieve a better world of work.

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