Remembrance and Resistance: Struggle for Health, Safety, Livelihood and Rights! (International Workers’ Memorial Day 2021 )

After more than a year of the longest lockdown in the world, Covid-19 cases in the Philippines continue to rise, peaking at 15,000 in just one day. The socio-economic conditions continue to worsen, while the country’s already weak healthcare system has completely broken down. As we near April 28 International Workers’ Memorial Day and May 1 International Labour Day, we strengthen our demands to save workers’ lives.   

The government has failed to strengthen the country’s healthcare system. Hospitals are overwhelmed and overran due to lack of facilities, equipment, and staff. Hospital beds are fully booked with Covid patients, leaving no room for other sick and even emergency cases. Last year, an estimate of 1,245 healthcare workers were infected, 27 of whom had died (21 doctors and 6 nurses). We have then demanded to fast-track and prioritize the protection of health workers and other front liners through production and distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE), and implementing hazard benefits and mass hiring. Yet, as of April 11 this year, the number of infected healthcare workers reached 16, 510 while a total of 86 had died.

The government has failed to protect workers’ safety and health. While countries all over the world underwent economic crisis due to work stoppage, workers bore the brunt of reviving the receding economies. In the name of doing business, workers’ safety and lives have been traded off.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) recorded 7,781 confirmed Covid cases in 2,234 workplaces. While this does not present the actual total number of infected, especially due to lack of mass testing and aggressive contact tracing, the highest recorded cases belong to regions of big labor force population. In the recent surge of Covid cases, the National Capital Region (NCR), Region IV-A, Region III and Region VII recorded the highest cases. These regions have the greatest number of manufacturing ecozones and information technology parks and centers. According the data of Department of Health (DOH), the age group 20-49 recorded the highest number of positive cases, presenting a high probability of these belonging to the labor force population.

Last year, when companies and workplaces went back to full operation, cases of Covid outbreak occurred in occupation sites such as Taguig Construction Site (300 construction workers), Metro Rail Transit (200 employees), business-processing outsource sites in different regions (415 workers), companies in special economic zones of Laguna (more than 400 workers), manufacturing company in Central Luzon (more than 200 workers), and a food manufacturing plant in Cavite (more than 700 tested positive.) For returning overseas Filipinos, a total of 16, 233 were tested positive as of April 11, fourteen of whom had died.

Amid the pandemic, workers’ health has become more vulnerable due to the economic systems in place. Without free mass testing and treatment, workers are not convinced to take the necessary measures to ensure their health and safety. This coupled with meager wages, lack of cash aid from the government, and “no work, no pay” scheme, contributes to the workers’ fear of losing daily income.

The Filipino workers continue to strengthen demands for health, safety, and social protection.  Workers’ health and safety is government responsibility, yet our own government has brought us to the brink of death due to sickness and poverty.  On this year’s International Workers’ Memorial Day, also known as World Day for Safety and Health, we remember those who have died due to the pandemic and government negligence, those who have laid their lives in the cause to improve and save workers’ lives. We mourn the dead, consolidate our ranks, and collectively demand:

  1. Mass testing and aggressive contact tracing in workplaces!
  2. Free and safe vaccine for all workers!
  3. Classify Covid-19 as an occupational disease!
  4. Cash aid for all!
  5. Pass the Paid Pandemic Leave Bill now!

Join the national day of action on April 28, 2021. Wear black shirt and join the social media protest by posting on your individual and organizational social media pages with our demands. At 6:00 PM, join the nationally coordinated candle lighting protest in your homes or offices, and post photos or videos on your pages. These activities will serve as build up actions for the upcoming Labour Day.

Remember the Dead, Fight for the Living! Save Workers’ Lives!

Occupational Safety and Health is a Fundamental Right!

Workers’ Safety from Covid-19 is Government Responsibility!

#IWMD2021

#SaveWorkersLives

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