Kwentong Covid/Kwentong Trabaho: E-book on work experiences during Covid-19 pandemic launched

An electronic book or e-book containing stories of Filipinos’ work-related experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic was launched this afternoon via Facebook and Zoom.

The e-book titled Kwentong Covid/Kwentong Trabaho is a project of workplace safety NGO Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development or IOHSAD, and gathered stories of workers, teachers, health professionals, jeepney drivers and other sectors about work during the pandemic.

It was able to gather 67 contributions consisting of essays, testimonies, short stories, poems and other forms, was edited by Teo S. Marasigan, columnist of progressive newspaper and website Pinoy Weekly, and designed by Dino Brucelas, graphic designer and instructor at the De La Salle College of St. Benilde.

“We feel that there is a need for workers and other working sectors to document their experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic and for the general public to read these experiences. We have so much to learn from the plight of the country’s workers and working sectors, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic” said Nadia De Leon, IOHSAD executive director.

The contributions present not only personal stories of suffering and strength, but working people’s collective experiences and challenges – layoff, anxiety, lack of cash aid and social protection, poor working conditions, labor rights abuses brought about by the government’s inept Covid-19 response and problems in the country’s economy.

De Leon said that the idea of an e-book emerged from IOHSAD’s conversations with workers about their situation during the pandemic. “Through these stories, we better understood the situation of workers. We were able to formulate workers’ demands and calls. We were able to craft plans for collective action for workers’ health, livelihood and rights.”

“We realized that we cannot simply keep these stories in our laptop files, or make these part of social media posts which will be buried into oblivion by other posts. These stories need to be released to the public in a way that they can be retained and returned to, in a way that readers can savor every word and message,” De Leon stated. 

The e-book’s editor, meanwhile, highlighted the need for the e-book despite workplace and other stories being available on social media.

“Here, we have stories coming from ordinary Filipinos, including those who are not always on social media. These stories are not regularly provided to us by the algorithm of our social media accounts and by the powers-that-be. Here, we can focus and reflect on, and feel, narratives and analyses pertaining to a topic that’s very important to the majority of Filipinos,” he said.

The launch featured readings by some of the authors of their contributions to the collection. The following read their contributions:

>> Angela Pamaos, a college instructor from Parañaque and member of the Lapis Art Community, who wrote about her heart-breaking experiences in teaching.

>> David Michael San Juan, a professor at the De La Salle University (DLSU)-Manila and president of the Pambansang Samahan sa Linggwistika at Literaturang Filipino or PSLLF, who wrote about his experiences as a progressive educator.

>> Paul Joshua Morante, a poet and a resident of Laguna who works for a Business Process Outsourcing company, who wrote about his an experience of working from home.

>> Paul John or “PJ” Dizon, an agricultural worker from Compostela Valley and a full-time organizer of labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno, who wrote about his organizing efforts amidst the pandemic.

>> Arth Jay Murillo, a writer and a spoken word artist from General Santos City who wrote about his experience of losing, and then finding, a job during the pandemic.

>> Mariz S. Autor, a graduate of the Philippine Normal University and a masters student at the DLSU, who wrote a short story about a migrant who went home to the Philippines with a mysterious disease.

>> Al Joseph Lumen, a writer based in Germany, who wrote about that country’s appreciation of health workers from the Philippines.

>> Kamz Deligente, deputy director of trade union rights NGO Center for Trade Union and Human Rights or CTUHR, who gathered the testimony of a union leader about the pandemic’s effects on both unionized and contractual workers.

>> Dr. Leonard Javier, a doctor and an activist who is a member of the Community Medicine Development Foundation (Commed) and Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), who wrote about his experiences of attending to poor patients.

The e-book will feature illustrations by visual artists Melvin Pollero and Beverly Wico Sy and photos from progressive multi-media group Mayday Multimedia.

IOHSAD expressed its gratitude to all the workers and working people who sent their stories for the e-book project. For their contribution to the launch, it also thanked visual artists Ericson Caguete and Karen Mae Bengco and the NSTP class of University of the Philippines-Manila Political Science Block handled by Prof. JM Lanuza.

The e-book will be available for download on May 31 at IOHSAD’s Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/Iohsad.Philippines.

Watch the e-book online launch via Facebook here.

Workers’ pressure forced government to recognize Covid-19 as occupational disease

More than one year into the pandemic, and only after a consistent campaign waged by workers’ organizations, the Employees’ Compensation Commission has finally recognized Covid-19 as a work-related and occupational disease.

This is a small victory of the Filipino workers and workers’ organizations in the country, who had to fight, online and offline, for this most logical and human measure. Crucial to the implementation of this measure is the approval of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte of P30,000 compensation to workers. We at the Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (IOHSAD) unite with Filipino workers and workers’ organizations in calling on Pres. Duterte to approve and ensure the implementation of this measure.

We trust that Filipino workers and workers’ organizations will continue to be vigilant in keeping a close watch on, and securing the implementation of, this new government policy, and that workers will indeed benefit from it. We at IOHSAD will continue to collaborate with workers’ organizations to ensure that this will indeed be the case. At the same time, given the recognition of Covid-19 as an occupational disease, we will continue to fight for the Paid Pandemic Bill, a measure much-needed by the country’s workers at present.

This time last year during the International Workers’ Memorial Day, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the broadest alliance of workers’ organizations in the world, has called for the classification of Covid-19 as an occupational disease [1]. In the Philippines, ITUC affiliates recognized that while the disease cannot solely be contracted from the workplace, the reality is that workers face a high risk of getting infected due to working conditions. Compliance with occupational safety and health standards are often sacrificed to keep up with production and profit.

Filipino workers bore witness to the truth of this claim as multiple workplaces suffered from outbreaks last year [2-5], even with minimum health standards in place. Several factories located in special economic zones in Laguna recorded hundreds of Covid-19 positive cases last year that greatly affected workers’ health and livelihood. This situation brought more pressure on the government to classify Covid-19 as a compensable disease.

While the ECC has made Covid-19 compensable under the increased risk theory as early as February 2020 [6], workers have found it difficult to claim their benefits because of documentary requirements. It is difficult to prove that they contracted the infection at work when the country’s poor contact tracing and testing efforts have made it almost impossible to know whether any of their co-workers or any individual with whom they shared a common area are close contacts or asymptomatic yet infected. This has left much of the burden to the infected workers, who are already suffering from the disease and losing income from isolation.

Under the ECC Board Resolution No. 21-04-14, COVID-19 is considered both a work-related and occupational disease. This allows infected workers, regardless of the severity of their symptoms, to receive around Php 30,000 (pending approval by the President) if they contract the disease with any of the following conditions present [7]:

  1. A direct connection between the “offending agent or event” and the workers based on epidemiologic criteria and occupation risk (examples: health workers, contact tracing teams),
  2. The task assigned to the worker requires frequent face-to-face and proximity interactions,
  3. Transmission occurred in the workplace, and
  4. Transmission occurred while commuting to and from work.

Sources:

[1] International Trade Union Confederation (2020). COVID-19 should be classified as an occupational disease. Retrieved from https://www.ituc-csi.org/covid-19-occupational-disease

[2] San Juan, A. (2020). 4 more MRT staff have COVID-19; 202 now infected. Retrieved from https://mb.com.ph/2020/07/08/4-more-mrt-staff-have-covid-19-202-now-infected/

[3] CNN Philippines (2020). Over 300 workers in BGC construction site test positive for COVID-19. Retrieved fromhttps://cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/7/10/Over-300-workers-in-BGC-construction-site-test-positive-for-COVID-19.html?fbclid=IwAR36pamrE1W0cBtZK_MX1o-qffFEv3n7ANe5sek_3cybyb1IgTkIFcNdV3Y

[4]Casilao, J. (2020). 15 companies in QC being monitored due to 280 workplace-related COVID-19 infections. Retrieved from https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/metro/748876/15-companies-in-qc-being-monitored-due-to-280-workplace-related-covid-19-infections/story/?fbclid=IwAR0nrEJa2rOEyLoSpiPmjVNz8LrYkLDkzbB1iTbM9w10Ho94_3tpMBzM3-E

[5]Datu, D. (2020). Operasyon ng kompanyasa Laguna, sinuspindesadami ng COVID-19 cases. Retrieved fromhttps://news.abs-cbn.com/news/07/30/20/operasyon-ng-kompanya-sa-laguna-sinuspinde-sa-dami-ng-covid-19-cases?fbclid=IwAR2qxUw_phId9tDn_HrWIvjL7EqWYpguEIg0_-gOpAC-xnmOlOx0tOs9S6Y

[6] Employees’ Compensation Commission (2020). ECC reminds employees to be more cautious of COVID-19, apply EC benefits if applicable. Retrieved from http://ecc.gov.ph/ecc-reminds-employees-to-be-more-cautious-of-covid-19-apply-ec-benefits-if-applicable/

[7] Rey, A. (2021). Duterte asked to approve P30,000 per worker infected with COVID-19. Retrieved from

https://www.rappler.com/nation/duterte-asked-approve-compensation-per-worker-infected-covid-19

Governement ‘palpak’ in saving workers’ lives during pandemic



Workplace safety NGO Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (IOHSAD), together with workers, teachers, artists, urban poor and health workers lit candles at home and hospitals this evening to remember those who have died due to the Covid-19 pandemic and government negligence, as well as those who have laid their lives in the cause to improve and save workers’ lives.


IOHSAD, which led in posting photos of the activity on social media, claimed that the government has failed to protect workers’ safety and health, especially during the pandemic. It said that workers bore the brunt of reviving the country’s declining economy, and workers’ safety and lives have been traded off in the name of doing business under the “new normal.”

“We remember all workers who have died saving the lives of, and providing essential services to, Filipinos. We condemn the government for failing to provide sufficient protection to our workers. At the same time, we raise the alarm on the possibility of Covid-19 outbreaks in workplaces if the government refuses to immediately act on workers’ health and safety demands,” said Nadia De Leon, IOHSAD executive director.

“The government did not only fail in protecting workers’ health and safety. It also failed to provide sufficient cash aid to workers and their families during this pandemic. Not only is this inhumane, but it also weakened the bodies of workers and their family members,” she added.

De Leon said that the issue of workers’ health and safety goes hand-in-hand with workers’ livelihood. Workers’ health has become more vulnerable to Covid-19 due to meager wages, lack of cash aid from the government, and “no work, no pay” scheme. There are numerous reports of workers who have been close contacts with confirmed Covid-19 cases and need to undergo quarantine for 14 days and have been deprived of their wages. 


“No worker should have to choose between going to work or getting hungry. Safe workplaces and paid pandemic leaves should be ensured to protect our workers’ health and safety,” she added.

The activity was held to commemorate International Workers Memorial Day, a red-letter day for workers and labor groups since 1989, which aims to remember workers who have died due to unsafe work. 

“The annual theme of International Workers’ Memorial Day, ‘Remember the dead, fight for the living,’ is most relevant as we reiterate our health and safety demands to ensure workers’ health, safety, protection and welfare,” De Leon added. 

IOHSAD enumerated Filipino workers’ occupational safety and health demands:

  • Mass testing and aggressive contact tracing in workplaces.

We cannot fight this disease blindly. We have to catch the infection at its source to contain its spread. Testing those who are symptomatic and their close contacts and finding at least 37 close contacts per positive case should be the norm.

  • Free and safe vaccines for all workers.

Workers are the bloodlines of society. To keep the economy afloat, we must keep our workers protected and alive. As we face the onslaught of this pandemic, free and safe vaccines should be ensured, and made accessible and free!

  • Cash aid for all!  (10K subsidy for the poor! P100 daily wage subsidy for workers!)

The pandemic took a lot from our people: jobs, savings, mental health, social connection and, worst of all, many of our loved ones. As prices continue to increase given the 4.5% inflation rate and wages are kept at bare minimum, we have to support those who are still with us and are trying their hardest to survive. Let us give a fighting chance to those who are in need by providing cash aid that will allows them to afford their basic needs!

  • Pass the Paid Pandemic Leave Bill Now!

A year into the pandemic, the interconnections between health and livelihood, job security and wellbeing of the economy should no longer be in question. We need to support everyone affected by the pandemic—those who got sick, their caregivers, their close contacts including those who lost their jobs permanently or temporarily. Workers need not choose between their health and livelihood or between family and the economy. To control this pandemic, we have to put all of these at the same level of priority and we can do so by providing paid pandemic leaves now!

###

[Call for Contributions] Kwentong Covid/Kwentong Obrero: Karanasan ng mga Manggagawa sa Pandemya

Inaanyayahan ang lahat ng manggagawa: manggagawa sa manupaktura, manggagawang pangkalusugan, guro, empleyado ng BPO, manggagawang agrikultural, kawani ng gobyerno, jeepney drayber, migrante, manggagawang pangkultura at iba pang nais magsulat ng kanilang karanasan ngayong pandemya para sa inihahandang koleksyon o e-book. Maaaring ipadala ang inyong mga lahok hanggang 18 Abril 2021.

Layunin ng koleksyong itampok ang mga karanasan ng mga manggagawa mula sa iba’t ibang sektor ngayong pandemya at ibahagi ang naging epekto ng Covid-19 sa kanilang kalusugan, kabuhayan at karapatan.

Ang tentatibong pamagat ng magiging e-book ay “Kwentong Covid/Kwentong Obrero”

  1. Pumapaksa sa mga karanasan ng manggagawa ngayong pandemya, mga naging epekto ng Covid-19 sa kalusugan, kabuhayan at mga karapatan.
  • Maaaring magkwento tungkol sa alinman sa mga sumusunod:
  • Karanasan ng mga nagpositibo sa Covid-19
  • Nawalan ng trabaho dahil sa pandemya
  • Epekto ng pandemya sa pamilya (sa mga bata, kanilang pag-aaral, pag-unlad, mental health at iba pa)
  • Mga panganib na sinuong sa mga lugar-paggawa dahil sa Covid-19
  • Mga bagong karanasan, hilig, kaalamang nakuha at sinimulan nitong pandemya
  • Mga naisip noong unang lockdown at paano nagbago sa pagtakbo ng pandemya
  • At iba pang karanasan ngayong pandemya
  • Bukod sa sanaysay, maaari ring magsulat sa iba pang porma tulad ng tula, maikling kwento, at dagli  Kahit pormang mahabang post sa Facebook, maaari.
  • Maaari lang makapagpadala ng isang akda ang bawat manggagawa.
  • Ipadala ang inyong akda sa kwentongcovidsatrabaho@gmail.com.  Isama sa Word document ang 1-2 talata na nagpapakilala sa manunulat.
  • Tatanggap ng mga akda sa wikang Filipino, Taglish, English, o Bisaya. Ang mahalaga ay maisulat ang mga kwento.
  • Tatanggap ng mga akda hanggang 18 Abril 2021.

PATNUGOT: Teo S. Marasigan

Ang proyektong ito ay pinapangunahan ng Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (IOHSAD).

COVID-19 vaccination: Workers’ Concerns

In response to the comprehensive national plan for immunization against COVID-19, the Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (IOHSAD) demands for the following: mandatory occupational safety and health education on vaccination in workplaces; free, safe, and effective vaccines; and prioritization of workers and other marginalized sectors over uniformed personnel in the vaccination program.


(1)  For the vaccination program to be successful, the government must uphold workers’ informed consent, not enforced vaccination. The pandemic has triggered volumes of new information at record speed, making anyone vulnerable to misinformation. Without enough time or resources, the public can fall into the catchy and convenient but unproven narratives rather than seek out accurate and evidence-based data. While there is a need for vaccination, this should be done through persuasion and education. Repression and forcing people to undergo vaccination will only play into the hands of paranoia and misinformation. The government should enforce mandatory education on vaccination in the workplace.

(2) The government should provide free, safe and effective vaccines regardless of employment status to genuinely protect the movers of the Philippine economy. It should ensure that the already-impoverished and embattled workers of the country will not pay the cost of vaccination from their own pockets. At the same time, it should create mechanisms for treatment and compensation for the vaccination’s possible adverse effects to assure workers that they are not gambling with their lives.

(3) The government should stay true to the values reflected in the prioritization list created by the World Health Organization SAGE1 and not leave the marginalized population behind. Sociodemographic groups at significantly higher risk than other senior citizens should take priority over uniformed personnel based on the principles of well-being, equal respect and equity1,2. Their situation predisposes them to suffer greater damage from the pandemic. Until the government can ensure equal access of vaccines to them, it cannot truly say that it was able to address the interests of its people with equal respect or provide everyone with equal opportunities.

The disadvantaged or persecuted ethnic, racial, gender, and religious groups and sexual minorities, people living with disabilities, people living in extreme poverty, homeless and those living in informal settlements or urban slums, low-income migrant workers, refugees, internally displaced persons, asylum seekers, populations in conflict settings or those affected by humanitarian emergencies, vulnerable migrants in irregular situations, nomadic populations, and hard-to-reach population groups such as those in rural and remote areas1 have long suffered from the inequalities of health and opportunities to develop ones’ self in society. They should not be left farther behind as the country moves forward and heal from the pandemic.

We are therefore calling out this government’s blatant favoritism of uniformed officers over those in greater need! In the middle of a global health crisis, it is unfathomablethat it provided the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict access to PhP 19-B of the national budget3 when only PhP 2.5-B of the PhP 72.5-B budget for vaccines is readily available4,5. It is also unacceptable that it allotted 33-B for modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines6 when only 4.7-B is allocated for enhancement of health facilities7. It is all the more frustrating that it altered prioritization to displace indigents and the rest of the marginalized community in favor of uniformed personnel. And, when the bar could not be set any lower, it allowed the compassionate use of vaccines without published safety and efficacy studies for the use of the Presidential Security Group amidst stringent regulations in place8.

Thus, together with the Solidarity of Health Advocates and Personnel for a Unified Plan to Defeat COVID-19 and Coalition for People’s Right to Health, we reiterate the call for the national government to ensure centralized planning, procurement, transport, distribution, and integrity of vaccines and technologies to ensure equity, accountability, and cost-effectiveness9. Furthermore, IOHSAD challenges the government to create a culture of trust by showing compliance with its own protocols, imposing due punishment for its violations, and serving as an example by having its officials take the first doses of the vaccines once available.

As more vaccines complete their phase 3 trials, the rest of the world grows hopeful in controlling the pandemic, but the Philippines has yet to see the end in sight. In the latest Pulse Asia survey, almost half of Filipinos, 47%, would prefer not to get vaccinated against COVID-1910. While the uncertainty of the safety, cost and need for a vaccine to combat COVID-19 are cited as reasons for vaccine hesitancy, the people did not come to these conclusions alone. The government has created an environment of mistrust with its lapses in the pandemic response, non-accountability in the Dengvaxia fiasco, perpetuation of fake news, and neglect of a health care system that has failed the Filipinos time and again. The little belief the public had has been converted into doubt and is hurting all efforts to control COVID-19. With safety as the primary concern of Filipinos in choosing to be vaccinated 11, a systemic change with timely and effective dissemination of correct vaccine information at its core is necessary for the country to work towards achieving herd immunity and put an end to this pandemic.

References

[1] World Health Organization (2020). WHO SAGE Roadmap For Prioritizing Uses of COVID-19 Vaccines in the Context of Limited Supply: An approach to inform planning and subsequent recommendations based upon epidemiologic setting and vaccine supply scenarios.

[2] World Health Organization (2020). WHO SAGE Values Framework for the Allocation and Prioritization of COVID-19 Vaccination

[3] CNN Philippines (2020). ₱19B NTF-ELCAC fund stays in Congress-approved budget. Retrieved February 12, 2021 from https://www.cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/12/10/P19-billion-NTF-ELCAC-stays-Congress-ratified-budget.html

[4] CNN Philippines (2020). Duterte signs ₱4.5-T budget for 202. Retrieved February 12, 2021 from https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/12/28/Duterte-signs-2021-budget.html

[5]Gotinga, JC (2020.) Why is much of the budget for COVID-19 vaccines wait-listed? Politics. Retrieved February 12, 2021 from

https://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/in-depth/covid-19-vaccines-2021-budget-wait-listed-because-politics

[6] Department of Budget and Management (2021). National Expenditure Program 2021: Department of National Defense, General Headquarters, AFP and AFP Wide Service Support Units (AFPWSSUS)

[7] Department of Budget and Management (2021). National Expenditure Program 2021: Details of Health Facilities Enhancement Program Under DOH

[8] Luna, F. (2021). FDA approves compassionate use license on vaccines for PSG personnel. Retrieved February 12, 2021 from

https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2021/02/11/2077017/fda-approves-compassionate-use-license-vaccines-psg-personnel

[9] SHAPE-UP COVID-19 and CPRH (2020).  8-point calls for a comprehensive, equitable, and transparent COVID-19 vaccine roll-out. Retrieved February 12, 2021 from https://fb.watch/2-YKTQtp-G/

[10] Deiparine, C. (2021). 47% of Filipinos unwilling to get COVID-19 jabs, worried of vaccine safety — survey. Retrieved February 11, 2021 from https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2021/01/07/2068852/47-filipinos-unwilling-get-covid-19-jabs-worried-vaccine-safety-survey

[11] ABS-CBN News (2021). Pinoys prioritize COVID-19 vaccine safety in decision to get inoculated: survey. Retrieved February 12, 2021 from

https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/01/27/21/pinoys-prioritize-covid-19-vaccine-safety-in-decision-to-get-inoculated-survey

POSITION PAPER IN SUPPORT OF HOUSE BILL 7909 OR PAID PANDEMIC LEAVE BILL

The Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (IOHSAD), a non-government organization that assists workers in promoting and protecting occupational safety and health rights, fully supports and calls for the immediate passage of the pro-worker House Bill 7909 or Paid Pandemic Leave Bill authored by Reps. Arlene D. Brosas, Carlos Isagani T. Zarate, Ferdinand R. Gaite, Eufemia C. Cullamat, France L. Castro and Sarah Jane I. Elago.

Measures to control the COVID-19 pandemic made the workforce its collateral damage. Lockdowns displaced 15.9 million formal and informal workers1 and left 3.8 million still unemployed as of October 20202. Government assistance for workers left around 2.6 million unsupported out of the 4.6 million in need3. Guidelines for work resumption exposed workers to multiple outbreaks4,5,6,7 in the background of unclear quarantine, isolation, testing, and treatment protocols without pay8from lax protocol implementation and lack of social safety nets. Worker welfare should not suffer at the expense of supporting the economy when both are essential in stabilizing this crisis. By providing paid leaves during the pandemic, we can uphold public health while protecting the workers, the workplace, and the economy.

Paid leaves eliminate the dilemma of having to choose between health and income9-,12. Without fear of losing their jobs or incomes, workers are less likely to report while sick, reducing the spread of diseases in the workplace and the community. With adequate financial support, workers can seek consult and treatment without cutting corners for fear of going into health care-induced debt. With dedicated time to attend to their illness, workers are relieved of the pressure to continue working while unwell, speeding up their recovery and preventing the progression of their disease into a more severe one. All of which are crucial during a pandemic.

Compensation mechanisms are essential for public health compliance with quarantine measures13. This is consistent with how compensation of wages from workdays lost increased the likelihood of mandatory quarantine compliance to 94% in Israel, which could have dropped to 57% otherwise14. Furthermore, the implementation of a national two-week paid leave policy in the United States resulted in non-essential workers spending an average of 4.2% more hours at home, 7.7% fewer hours away from home, and 6.1% fewer hours at work daily15. Cuts on paid sick leaves, on the other hand, led to a 20% increase in absences from infectious diseases in Spain11,  and their unavailability in 2009 fueled workplace transmission and infected around 7 million people in the US alone during the H1N1 pandemic10.

Paid leaves enhance the workplace. These provide job satisfaction and decrease short term job separation by 25%16, increase retention of experienced workers, and reduce costs from hiring and training new employees12. These also improve productivity as shown by the 4.6% increase in revenue per full-time employee, 6.80% increase in profit per full-time employee, 3.20% increase in human capital return of investment ratio, and 5.70% increase in return on human capital investment among participants in the joint Panorama and American Sustainable Business Council study in 201917. More importantly, these minimize losses incurred during outbreaks by facilitating efficient case identification and immediate containment of the disease12. With less disruption of operations from shutdowns and less expenditure from subsequent health care needs, providing paid leaves pay off during a pandemic.

Paid leaves revitalize the economy. These transform workplaces into safer ones and keep workers well-protected, which attract greater labor participation12. These encourage workers to stay in jobs where they can keep developing their skills and further increase their productivity, which leads to economic growth12. These promote efficient case identification and contact tracing, which allows easing of restrictions and safer reintegration after a lockdown18. And when funded by the government, these reduce the financial burden on employers, which decreases worker layoffs, company closures and the demand for unemployment benefits and job retention schemes11. While numerous intervening factors such as economic stability, health care capacity, and pre-existing government policies make it difficult to see the impact of having paid leaves during a pandemic, several countries including South Korea, New Zealand, and Australia all highlight the significance of social protection programs in their successful control of COVID-1919.

The proposed Paid Pandemic Leave Bill or House Bill 7909 optimizes these benefits to control the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for future ones with the welfare of all stakeholders in mind. It validates that social protection is affordable and is a worthwhile investment. Countries with larger allotment on paid sick leaves report higher economic productivity and faster recovery from crisis10,19. However, it will remain inadequate as long as it is not available to all and remains unaccompanied by efforts to improve contact tracing, testing, and access to health care.

IOHSAD recognizes that occupational safety and health is inseparable from livelihood, especially during this pandemic. Workers face an invisible enemy on top of the existing hazards in the workplace in exchange for the opportunity to provide for themselves and their families. It is unacceptable that these workers suffer from the minimum standards we have set as a response to this pandemic. It is time to show the Filipinos that we value their health more than their ability to yield profits. The immediate passage of the Paid Pandemic Leave Bill can regain the workers’ trust and create a robust defense to combat this pandemic. Social health protection is a human right10, and it is the government’s responsibility to uphold it.

To further improve the bill, may we suggest this recommendation on the final bill that will be approved by the Committee on Labor:

We suggest that the definitions for cases covered be updated according to local and international guidelines for broader inclusion in this policy.

  1. Expand close contacts to include individuals who, within two days before and 14 days after the onset of symptoms of a probable or confirmed case20-24,
    1. had face-to-face interactions with a probable or confirmed case within one meter for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more regardless of personal protective equipment use
    1. had direct physical contact with a probable or confirmed case
    1. provided direct care for a probable or confirmed case without the recommended personal protective equipment
    1. were involved in other situations and identified by local risk assessment as close contacts as well
  2.  Revise suspect cases to include persons who
    1. present with acute onset of fever and cough or three or more among symptoms: fever, cough, general weakness, fatigue, headache, myalgia, sore throat, coryza, dyspnea, anorexia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and altered mental status within 14 days from
      1. residing in or working at an area with a high risk of viral transmission, such as closed residential, camp or camp-like settings; or
      1. staying in or travel to an area with community transmission; or
      1. working in a health setting whether within health facilities or households.
    1. develop severe acute respiratory illness described as having a fever of at least 38oC and cough within the last ten days that required hospitalization.
  3. Update probable cases to include
    1. close contacts who develop symptoms as mentioned
    1. suspect cases with chest imaging suggestive of COVID-19
    1. persons with recent onset of loss of smell or taste in the absence of any other identified cause, and
    1. deceased close contacts or epidemiologic links to clusters having at least one confirmed case who developed respiratory distress preceding death

We also ask to extend coverage to self-employed individuals and members of the informal sector, who are hardest hit by this pandemic24,25.

References:

[1] Bisenio, X. (2020, August 21). Sap exaggerated, millions left behind. Retrieved December 7, 2020 from https://www.ibon.org/sap-exaggerated-millions-left-behind/

[2]Mapa, D. (2020, December 3). Employment Situation in October 2020. Retrieved December 7, 2020 from https://psa.gov.ph/content/employment-situation-october-2020

[3]Cruz, M. (2020, September 9). SAP for displaced workers not enough. Manilastandard.net. Retrieved December 7,2020 from https://manilastandard.net/mobile/article/333750

[4] San Juan, A. (2020, July 8). 4 more MRT staff have COVID-19; 202 now infected. Manila Bulletin. Retrieved December 8, 2020 from https://mb.com.ph/2020/07/08/4-more-mrt-staff-have-covid-19-202-now-infected/

[5] CNN Philippines staff (2020, July 10). Over 300 workers in BGC construction site test positive for COVID-19. CNN Philippines. Retrieved December 7, 2020 from https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/7/10/Over-300-workers-in-BGC-construction-site-test-positive-for-COVID-19.html?fbclid=IwAR36pamrE1W0cBtZK_MX1o-qffFEv3n7ANe5sek_3cybyb1IgTkIFcNdV3Y

[6] Casilao, J. (2020, July 28). 15 companies in QC being monitored due to 280 workplace-related COVID-19 infections. GMA News Online. Retrieved December 7, 2020 from https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/metro/748876/15-companies-in-qc-being-monitored-due-to-280-workplace-related-covid-19-infections/story/?fbclid=IwAR0nrEJa2rOEyLoSpiPmjVNz8LrYkLDkzbB1iTbM9w10Ho94_3tpMBzM3-E

[7] Datu, D. (2020, July 30). Operasyon ng kompanya sa Laguna sinuspinde sa dami ng COVID-19 cases. ABS-CBN News. Retrieved December 7, 2020 from https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/07/30/20/operasyon-ng-kompanya-sa-laguna-sinuspinde-sa-dami-ng-covid-19-cases?fbclid=IwAR2qxUw_phId9tDn_HrWIvjL7EqWYpguEIg0_-gOpAC-xnmOlOx0tOs9S6Y

[8] Department of Labor and Employment and Department of Trade Industry (2020, April 30). DTI and DOLE Interim Guidelines on Workplace Prevention and Control of COVID-19

[9] International Labour Organization (n.d) Pillar 3: Protecting workers in the workplace. ILO Policy Brief on COVID-19. Retrieved December 9, 2020 from https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/coronavirus/impacts-and-responses/WCMS_739049/lang–en/index.htm

[10] Scheil-Adlung, X. & Sandner, L. (2010). The case for paid sick leave[PDF]. World Health Organization.

[11] Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (2020, May 20). Supporting livelihoods during the COVID-19 crisis: closing the gaps in safety nets. OECD Policy Responses to Coronavirus (COVID-19).

[12] Joint Economic Committee United States Congress (n.d). The Economic Benefits of Paid Leave: Fact Sheet

[13] Coughlin, C. (2018, Mar 6). Public Health Policy: Revising the Need for a Compensation System for Quarantine to Maximize Compliance. Wake Forest Journal of Law and Policy, 2017

[14] Bodas, M. & Peleg, K. (2020, April 9). Self-Isolation Compliance In The COVID-19 Era Influenced By Compensation: Findings From A Recent Survey In Israel. Health Affairs 39(6) 10.1377/hlthaff.2020.00382. https://doi.org/10.1377/hlthaff.2020.00382

[15] Andersen, M., Maclean, J., Pesko, M. & Simon, K. (2020). Effect of a Federal Paid Sick Leave Mandate On Working And Staying At Home During The Covid-19 Pandemic: Evidence From Cellular Device Data [PDF]. National Bureau of Economic Research Working Papers

[16] Hill H. D. (2013). Paid Sick Leave and Job Stability. Work and occupations40(2), 10.1177/0730888413480893. https://doi.org/10.1177/0730888413480893

[17 Panorama & American Sustainable Business Council (2019). The Business Impacts of Paid Leave

[18] World Health Organization (2020). The 6 Steps

[19] Bremmer, I (2020, June 12). The Best Global Responses to COVID-19 Pandemic. Time. Retrieved December 10, 2020 from https://time.com/5851633/best-global-responses-covid-19/

[20] Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (2020, October 21). Glossary of Key Terms. Retrieved December 10, 2020 from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/contact-tracing/contact-tracing-plan/appendix.html

[21] World Health Organization (2020, May 10). Contact tracing in the context of COVID-19

[22] Department of Health (2020). Department Memorandum No. 2020-0439 Omnibus Interim Guidelines on Prevention, Detection, Isolation, Treatment and Reintegration Strategies for COVID-19

[23] Department of Health (2020). Workplace Handbook on COVID-19 Management and Prevention

[24] International Labour Organization (2020). In the face of a pandemic: Ensuring Safety and Health at Work

[25] International Labour Organization (2020, September 8). Extending social protection to informal workers in the COVID-19 crisis: country responses and policy considerations

Mass testing via real-time RT-PCR and workplace health and safety measures can save workers’ lives

The Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development called on employers to prioritize workers’ health and safety and denounced plans to use antibody rapid test kits to facilitate return to work after the enhanced community quarantine ends on April 30. IOHSAD claimed that testing workers for COVID-19 using antibody rapid test kits is dangerous and will not ensure the prevention of the virus’ spread in the workplace.

“Workers are not virus-proof. They are most vulnerable in the workplaces that do not comply with safety and health standards. Employers should conduct mass testing using real-time RT-PCR (Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction) that deliver more reliable results than rapid test kits. We advise workers to demand being tested with real-time RT-PCR before agreeing to return to work,” said Nadia De Leon IOHSAD Executive Director.

IOHSAD expressed its concern with Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion’s announcement that business organizations will utilize antibody rapid test kits on workers and residents of communities near factories. Concepcion stressed that the test results will help employers identify who among workers are fit to return to work. He called the business sector’s testing program as Project ARK (Antibody Rapid test Kits) inspired by Noah’s Ark, a Bible story which involves a big boat that carried Noah, his family and different animals to save them from the big flood.

IOHSAD challenged Concepcion and other business leaders to truly follow Noah’s example of saving lives and not put the workers in danger by using unreliable rapid test kits. IOHSAD said that these rapid test kits measure the antibodies IgG and IgM which only increase in number after a person gets infected with COVID-19. These antibodies, however, will reach a significant number only after 14-22 days from the day of infection. Utilizing these antibody rapid test kits will give workers who tested “negative” a false sense of security that they are COVID-free and are healthy and safe to return to work.

“We call on employers to contribute in expanding the country’s capacity to conduct mass testing through real-time RT-PCR. Workers’ lives matter and their health and safety should be ensured at all times,” added De Leon.

IOHSAD also challenged employers to set-up preventive and control measures to ensure that workplaces are COVID-free and workers are safe before they return to work. Companies who fail to establish OSH preventive and control measures should not be allowed to return to “business as usual”. The workplace safety group called on the employers to carry out the following OSH measures:

  • Provide workers with proper personal protective equipment (PPE) including face masks that they can use outside the workplace;
  • Provide transportation / shuttle services to all employees to ensure social distancing;
  • Ensure the presence of a physician or health personnel in the workplace to strictly monitor workers’ health and safety at work at all times;
  • Regular, safe and efficient disinfection in the workplace;
  • Provide accessible hand washing areas with soap and water, and remind workers about the importance of frequent hand washing;
  • Conduct regular information campaign on how to prevent the spread of COVID in the workplace;
  • Draft and implement specific OSH guidelines in the workplace if a worker or someone suspected or confirmed of having COVID has been in the workplace;
  • Management should shoulder curative expenses of workers who have been infected with COVID and assist them in availing compensation from the Employees’ Compensation Commission (ECC) 

“COVID-19 has already claimed the lives of so many frontline health workers. Non-compliance with OSH standards, such as failure to provide proper PPE to protect frontline health workers, has resulted in many painful deaths. This should send a clear message to employers to place workers’ health and safety first before profit,” ended De Leon.##

#SaveOurHeroes : Ensure our frontline workers’ health and safety!

We are thankful for the sacrifices and commitment of our frontline workers who continue to work amid the risk of being infected with the deadly novel coronavirus. Besides the risk of being exposed to the virus, they also experience long working hours, mental stress and over fatigue while performing their vital jobs.

They deserve to be called SUPERHEROES. But more than the label, what they truly deserve in this crucial time is the national government’s urgent support and protection.

We call on the government to immediately provide our frontline workers (health workers and those who work in groceries, banks, hospitals, food manufacturing, delivery, etc.) with the following:

Proper and quality personal protective equipment (PPE)

Immediately allot funds to purchase quality masks, gloves, goggles and other personal protective equipment for health workers. Workers in private establishments that continue to operate and are exempted from the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) should also be provided by the companies with proper and quality PPE.

Hazard pay, compensation and curative services

Our frontline workers should all get hazard pay.  The health workers who take care of patients should get compensation, rehabilitation and curative services if they get infected with COVID-19. Workers who keep vital establishments operational should be given additional pay for their services and braving the risk of being exposed and infected with the novel coronavirus.

Appropriate working hours with breaks

Our frontline workers’ health and safety should be ensured at all times. They should not be forced to work overtime. Any work rendered beyond the 8-hour labor standard should be appropriately compensated. They should also be given paid breaks within the working day.

Reports show a rapid increase in the number of health professionals and workers who are in quarantine. The government should immediately hire and train more health workers to be deployed to all hospitals and other medical centers.

Mental health and counselling services

The constant risk of infection and being away from their families during this difficult time can cause mental stress and anxiety among our frontline workers. Free and accessible mental health and counselling services should be provided to them.

Free transportation/housing services

No worker should suffer and walk going to his/her workplace. The government should ensure that free transportation and/or housing services are provided by companies, private and public hospitals to our frontline workers.

Mass COVID-19 testing now

The World Health Organization has stressed the urgency of launching mass COVID-19 testing to the public to “effectively suppress and control the virus’ spread”. Our health workers who are constantly exposed to hazards and have a higher risk of infection should be prioritized in the COVID-19 testing. Processing of COVID-19 tests for health workers should also be prioritized and fast-tracked.

Handa ba ang iyong lugar-paggawa sa COVID-19?

Noong mga nakaraang linggo, naglabas ang Department of Labor and Employment ng mga labor advisories hinggil sa COVID-19 (LA No. 04 Series of 2020 at LA No. 09 Series of 2020). Ayon sa Kilusang Mayo Uno, hindi sapat at kulang ang nilalaman ng mga advisories na ito para protektahan ang kalusugan at kaligtasan ng mga manggagawa laban sa COVID-19. Sa ganitong mga kalagayan, kailangang maging mas mapagbantay ang mga manggagawa at tiyaking umaaksyon nang maagap at wasto ang mga kumpanya.

Narito ang tatlong (3) tips para alamin kung handa nga ba ang ating mga lugar-paggawa sa pagharap sa COVID-19. Makatutulong din ang mga tips na ito para tiyaking napangangalagaan ang ating occupational safety and health rights sa gitna ng pagharap natin sa isyu at panganib ng COVID-19.

  1. Alamin kung mayroong ipinapatupad na infectious disease preparedness and response plan ang inyong kumpanya.

Kung mayroon, makipagtalakayan sa kanila tungkol dito. Kung wala naman, makipagtulungan sa kanila para agad na makabuo at makapagpatupad sa lugar-paggawa.

Mahalagang bahagi ng plano ang paglulunsad ng risk assessment sa bawat lugar-paggawa. Ilan sa mga impormasyong kailangang malaman ay ang mga sumusunod:

  • Saan, paano at anu-ano ang maaaring panggalingan ng corona virus exposure ng mga  manggagawa?
  • Mga maysakit na manggagawa o may mataas na risk of infection tulad ng mga health workers na nagkaroon ng unprotected exposure sa mga taong may o suspek na mayroong COVID-19;
  • Indibidwal na mga risk factors ng mga manggagawa tulad ng edad, may dinaranas na health condition at pagbubuntis)

2. I-monitor kung nagpapatupad ang management ng iba’t ibang workplace controls kaugnay ng COVID-19. Mag-demand sa management na magpatupad ng basic infection prevention measures sa mga lugar-paggawa.

Sa kaso ng COVID-19, hindi maaaring magamit ang elimination na siyang pinakaepektibong pamamaraan ng pagkontrol sa mga panganib sa lugar-paggawa. Kaya maaaring gamitin ang mga natitirang pamamaraan ng pagkontrol tulad ng engineering, administration, personal protective equipment o kumbinasyon ng mga ito para makatulong sa pangangalaga ng kalusugan at kaligtasan ng mga manggagawa sa lugar-paggawa.

ENGINEERING CONTROL

  • Ito ang uri ng kontrol na hindi lang nakaasa sa pagsasagawa ng pag-iingat ng mga manggagawa. Ilan sa maaaring gawin ay ang mga sumusunod:
  • Tiyaking maayos ang bentilasyon sa loob ng lugar-paggawa.
  • Paglalagay ng mga high-quality air filter sa lugar-paggawa at pagtitiyak na lagi itong malinis.
image from https://www.brooklynfan.com/how-to-prevent-issues-with-your-industrial-exhaust-fans/

ADMINISTRATIVE CONTROL

  • Ito ang uri ng kontrol kung saan nagpapatupad ng mga patakaran at/o pagbabago sa pamamahala sa lugar-paggawa para mabawasan ang pagkalantad ng mga manggagawa sa panganib.
  • Maglunsad ng mga talakayan, information awareness campaign hinggil sa COVID-19 at kung paano ito maiiwasang kumalat sa mga lugar-paggawa.
  • Magkaroon ng sistema para sa maagap na pagsagot sa mga tanong at mungkahi tungkol sa pag-iwas at pagpigil sa paglaganap ng COVID-19 sa lugar-paggawa.
  • Magpatupad ng mga safe work practices tulad ng palagian at maiging paghuhugas ng kamay, pagtitiyak na laging may suplay ng tubig, sabon, alcohol sa lugar-paggawa. Panatilihing malinis ang lugar-paggawa. Regular na i-disinfect ang mga kagamitan sa loob ng lugar-paggawa tulad ng keyboard, telepono, makina o mga bagay na laging hinahawakan tulad ng handrails, door knobs at iba pa.
  • Tiyaking sumusunod ang kumpanya sa pagbibigay ng nararapat na health personnel at facilities na makatutugon sa pangangailangang medikal ng mga manggagawa. Tingnan ang probisyong nakasaad sa Chapter IV. Section 15 ng D.O. 198 o Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 11058 (OSH Law).

         PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT

  • Tandaan na ang angkop at wastong paggamit ng PPE ay makatutulong sa pag-iwas sa exposure sa hazard ngunit hindi pa rin nito dapat pangibabawan ang iba pang pamamaaraan ng pagkontrol sa panganib na nabanggit sa itaas.
  • Ilang halimbawa ng PPE ay ang mga sumusunod: goggles, face masks, gloves at iba pa. Kailangan alamin ang nararapat at angkop na PPE para sa partikular na kondisyon ng bawat lugar-paggawa.
  • Ayon sa Section 29 ng RA 11058 o Prohibited Acts and its Corresponding Penalties, may multang P50,000 ang kompanyang mapatutunayang hindi nagbibigay ng libre at angkop na PPE sa mga manggagawa. Sisingilin ito araw-araw mula sa petsa kung kailan nagbigay ng notice of violation hanggang sa araw na mag-comply na ito at nagpamahagi ng libre at angkop na PPE sa mga manggagawa.
  • Kailangang regular na imonitor ang tamang pagsusuot o paggamit ng mga PPE at napapalitan kung kinakailangan.

3. Igiit sa kumpanya ang pagbibigay ng karagdagang leave with pay labas sa existing sick at vacation leaves. Ang dagdag na paid leaves ay makatutulong para sa ibayong pag-iingat at pag-iwas sa pagkalat ng COVID-19.

Maaaring magpaabot ng sulat o petisyon sa management hinggil dito at magsagawa ng pag-uusap para talakayin ang usaping ito. Pagkaisahin ang mga manggagawa para sama-samang igiit ang pagtatamasa ng nararapat na mga benepisyo at tulong sa gitna ng pagharap ng bansa sa COVID-19.

Bukas ang IOHSAD sa inyong mga tanong, mungkahi o pagbabahagi ng karanasan kung paano nag-iingat at nagpapatupad ng mga hakbang sa pag-iwas sa pagkalat ng COVID-19 sa inyong mga lugar-paggawa. Maaari ninyo kaming i-email sa iohsadph@gmail.com, ilagay sa subject ang Fighting COVID-19 in Workplaces. Maaari ninyo rin kaming padalhan ng mensahe sa aming Facebook accounts Iohsad Phils at Iohsad Philippines.

Lagi nating tandaan na anumang usaping pangkalusugan at pang-kaligtasan sa lugar-paggawa ay kayang-kayang malagpasan sa pamamagitan ng mulat, sama-sama at organisadong pagkilos ng mga manggagawa.