Governement ‘palpak’ in saving workers’ lives during pandemic

April 29, 2021

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!