IOHSAD stands against Senate Bill 1571 or the Alternative Working Arrangement Bill

May 21, 2019

The Senate approved SB 1571 or the Alternative Working Arrangement Bill on third and final reading with a unanimous 17-0 vote last May 20 as it resumed session after the elections.

This bill allows employers to adjust the workers’ 48 hours work per week requirement.

IOHSAD strongly opposes Senate Bill 1571 because it institutionalizes flexible working arrangements such as the adoption of compressed workweek in workplaces that totally disregards the workers’ right to health and safety.

Occupational health and safety is a basic right of every worker. The government plays a crucial role in ensuring that this right is enjoyed by the workers at all times. Laws and regulations should focus on the protection of workers’ health and safety and not otherwise.

Compressed workweek means longer working hours a day that will lead to workers’ stress, injuries and illnesses.

Researches abroad show that working excessive hours or more than eight hours a day, increases the workers’ risk of acquiring chronic and life threatening diseases. Based on a research from the Ohio State University in 2016, performing work for 11 hours a day increases heart disease risk by 67 percent. Women workers triple their risks of diabetes, cancer and heart diseases when they continuously work for 12 hours a day.

Long working hours also result to workers’ fatigue and stress. Exhausted workers who work during night shifts are more prone to accidents and injuries. The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that accident and injury rates are higher by 18% during evening shifts. There is also a 37% increased risk of injury when workers are on duty for 12 hours per day.

Recent reports on decent work in the Philippines released by the Philippine Statistics Authority in 2015 say that 8.105 M Filipino workers are overworked. There are also 8.845 M employed persons who work excessive hours per week. This alarming data only shows that Filipino workers have long been suffering from long and exhausting working hours. Working for 12 hours straight has become normal in workplaces especially those located in special economic zones. Legislating flexible working schemes such as compressed workweek will institutionalize this slave-like working condition that puts workers’ health and lives in great danger.

In a workshop organized by IOHSAD on the effects of compressed workweek, a workers’ union of an electronics company reported that a number of workers suffer from heart problems and other chronic diseases. Moreover, two workers went through heart bypass operations and one worker had an angioplasty procedure. Two workers from the same company died this year from heart attack and lung cancer. The workers’ union firmly believes that these health cases and deaths are work-related and caused by their continuous exposure to stressful and unsafe working conditions.

Compressed workweek prolongs workers’ exposure to potential health hazards such as noise, extreme temperature and harmful chemicals.

Workers in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry have also reported cases of throat problems caused by excessive use of voice. Urinary track infection cases are also common among them because they are prohibited from taking breaks during calls.

Compressed workweek also puts workers handling chemicals to greater risks. The longer workers are exposed to chemicals in workplaces, the greater are the risks of developing serious health problems. Exposure limits are based on the standard eight-hour work day. Prolonged and continuous chemical exposure in the workplace would have a corresponding impact to workers’ health.

Compressed workweek affects relationships with family and can lead to emotional and psychological stress for the working parents and their children.

Workers contradict claims that a four-day workweek would give them more time to spend with their families. They assert that longer working hours would actually deprive them of spending quality time with their children. A 12-hour working day leaves them little time to interact and care for their families. Extended workdays also cause fatigue which makes it difficult for working parents to enjoy and relax with their children.

Compressed workweek robs workers of their right to safe and healthy workplaces.

We call on our legislators to focus on laws that will protect the occupational health and safety rights of Filipino workers. Workers demand for legislation that will ensure their health and safety and not policies that will worsen existing working conditions.