[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).

Southern Tagalog massacre abominable — labor safety NGO


The Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development  (IOHSAD) condemns the massacre of nine activists, the arrest of four more, and the raids of their households. These are further proof of the blatant disregard of Filipinos’ right to life and to live in freedom and in safety under the Duterte government.

Everyone has the right to be treated equally by the law, and should be considered innocent until proven guilty, but uniformed personnel took it upon themselves to deliver their own verdict. Everyone has the right to ask for legal help when their rights are not respected, but these same men withheld the victims’ families access to legal aide. No one should be subjected to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment, but these men used excessive force on unarmed civilians resting in their homes in the guise of following orders from higher-ups.

It is the government’s responsibility to uphold human rights for all and it should be made accountable for its actions. We support workers’ unions, pro-worker institutions and people’s organizations in general who are waging a struggle until justice for those massacred is served.

Unionists, labor leaders, union organizers, activists and labor rights defenders in general are the backbone of the fight for healthy and safe workplaces in the country. If workplace health and safety in the Philippines leave much to be desired, it is because these people have been under attack for years. Instead of ensuring the strict implementation of occupational health and safety standards to save the lives of workers, either in the short-term or the long-term, the Duterte government is busy in its killing spree of those people dedicated to fighting for workers’ right to a healthy and safe workplace and other labor rights. Indeed, the picture is that the government is killing these labor rights advocates so the big greedy corporations can go on killing workers in the workplace. Impunity in government upholds impunity in the workplace.

One Friday, President Rodrigo Duterte reiterated his order to kill communist rebels. Just two days after, a synchronized police operation was carried out against unionists and activists in Southern Tagalog region. His regime has long created an environment of danger for labor and human rights defenders and activists, claiming 318 lives from July 2016 to June 2020. With the International Criminal Court already having reasonable basis for trying crimes against humanity for the 20,000 lives lost from Duterte’s drug war, we amplify our call to the United Nations Human Rights Council to conduct an investigation on the human rights situation in Philippines.

For three years now, the Philippines has been listed by the International Trade Union Confederation or ITUC in its Global Rights Index as one of the 10 worst countries in the world for workers. This is not surprising as according to the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR),  53 workers and labor rights defenders have been victims of state-sponsored killings, 30 remain detained over trumped-up charges, 45 instances of union-busting have been recorded from June 30 to December 2018, and 14 violent picketline dispersals by the combined forces of the police, the military, goons, and company guards have been carried out by 2020.

These attacks on workers and labor rights defenders should stop. With these occurring on top of continued surveillance, harassment and intimidation of labor leaders, organizers and unions, IOHSAD challenges the government to accept the High-Level Mission of the International Labour Organization (ILO) to investigate the trade union and human rights violations against workers and labor rights defenders.

We are calling on fellow labor advocates and rights defenders to stand with our brothers and sisters who are no longer with us because of the Duterte regime’s policy of extra-judicial killings. They were taken too soon to become a statistic in this administration’s fight against the insurgency, one that fails to protect the very people it should be serving. Activism is not terrorism, but service to workers and the people. Through the rose-colored lenses of a man who wants to stay in power, however, everyone, except the COVID-19 virus, is a target.

Stop the Attacks! Stop the Killings!

Hands off Unionists!

Hands off Labor Rights Defenders!

Unionism is not Terrorism!

Junk Terror Law!

Defend Trade Union and Human Rights!

Justice for all Victims of Extrajudicial Killings!

Buan, L. (2020). Echanis case sparks new scrutiny of PH government probes into killings.Rappler. Retrieved from https://www.rappler.com/nation/echanis-case-sparks-new-scrutiny-ph-government-probes-killings

Flores, H. (2020). ICC sees crimes against humanity in Philippines drug war.Philippine Star. Retrieved from https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2020/12/16/2064113/icc-sees-crimes-against-humanity-philippines-drug-war

International Trade Union Confederations Global Rights Index (2016-2020)

Center for Trade Union, Inc (2020). Statement on Bloody Sunday Massacre.

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

Probe ammonia-related incidents, penalize violators

The Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (IOHSAD) calls on the Labor Department to immediately release results of previous Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) inspections into workplaces involved in three recent ammonia-related incidents, conduct strict investigation into the incidents, and penalize the violators based on the provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Law.

The incidents are further proof that regular workplace inspection should not have been discontinued despite the pandemic, as essential industries continue to operate. Workers not only risk getting infected by Covid-19, but also risk being injured, sick or even killed due to uncorrected hazards in workplaces.

Wear and tear in the ammonia storage tank in Navotas or the pipes in Malabon, and the improper disposal of ammonia in Batangas, as shown by the preliminary investigations, could have been avoided had there been strict employer compliance with and strict government implementation of guidelines on these matters.

In just two days, the country has witnessed three separate ammonia-related incidents near residential areas that resulted in the evacuation, injuries and death of workers and their families.

– 3,000 families were displaced, 96 people were hospitalized, and two workers died from the T.P Marcelo Ice Plant and Cold Storage tank explosion in Navotas.

– The Environmental Management Board or EMB cried foul as plants withered and fish died from Pantoja Ice Plant’s ammonia leak and dumping of ammonia into rainwater canals in Batangas.

– Residents complained as a strong, foul odor escaped from the Ice and Water Shop Tube Ice Maker ammonia pipe leak in Malabon.

Ammonia is a burn-inducing, moisture-absorbing, flammable and explosive chemical used as pesticide or refrigerant in ice plants. In small amounts, it can cause headaches, loss of sense of smell, nausea, and vomiting but in significant amounts (more than 50 parts per million), it can cause irritation to the nose, mouth and throat. It can even be fatal in concentrations as high as 300-500 parts per million.

As a hazardous chemical, ammonia’s use is guided by OSH Standards. Its waste management is covered by Republic Act 6969 or the “Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act” and its IRR, namely Department of Environment and Natural Resources Administrative Order No. 29-92.

The said rules state that tanks for anhydrous ammonia must be distant from other buildings, fire hazards and traffic, must be protected against solar heat and mechanical damage, and must not be more than 4/5 full.

The waste generator is considered responsible for the proper management and disposal of ammonia. He or she shall submit to the DENR contingency plans to mitigate and combat spills and accidents involving the chemical. The DENR will then evaluate these plans according to its guidelines. He or she shall also train personnel on the implementation of the said plan, as well as the hazards posed by improper management of the chemical substance. The employers’ accountability should also be investigated.

In addition, according to Republic Act 11058: An Act Strengthening Compliance with OSH Standards and Providing Penalties for Violations Thereof, all workplaces should be subjected to annual spot labor inspections. A daily fine of not more than PhP 100,000 shall then be imposed for willful failure or refusal until full compliance is met.

The incidents show that imposing fines is not enough to prevent work-related accidents from happening. Amidst these tragedies that claim workers’ lives, endanger the public and destroy the environment, workers advocates are calling for the criminalization of OSH standards violations. Money will never suffice to pay for lives lost because of preventable incidents.

It is unacceptable to lose lives over incidents that are preventable. It is even more enraging to see non-compliance tolerated by the law. The government should not wait for another tragedy as large as the Kentex factory fire in order to realize that stronger policies for worker protection should be implemented.

Workers’ health and safety cannot take a back seat in supporting the economy. A healthy and protected work force will boost productivity and keep industries running. As long as the government continues to neglect occupational health and safety, workers’ lives and the environment will continue to be at risk because of non-compliant corporations.

References:

  1. Cabico, GK (2021). Ice plant must shoulder victims’ hospitalization over ammonia leak — Navotas mayor retrieved Feb 5, 2021 from https://www.philstar.com/nation/2021/02/04/2075306/ice-plant-must-shoulder-victims-hospitalization-over-ammonia-leak-navotas-mayor
  2. Ganzon-Ozaeta, T. (2021). Environment Bureau investigates ammonia leak in Batangas ice plant. Retreieved February 5, 2021 from https://www.rappler.com/nation/environment-bureau-investigates-ammonia-leak-batangas-ice-plant
  3.  Balagtas, C. (2021) Another ammonia leak incident reported in Malabon. Retrieved Feb 5, 2021 from https://tribune.net.ph/index.php/2021/02/05/another-ammonia-leak-incident-reported-in-malabon/
  4. US Environmental Protection Agency Region 7 (2015). Accident Prevention and Response Manual for Anhydrous Ammonia Refrigeration System Operators. Retrieved February 5, 2021 from https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-05/documents/accident_prevention_ammonia_refrigeration_5-20-15.pdf
  5. Canadian Centre of Occupational Health and Safety  (2017).  OSH Answers Fact Sheet: Ammonia. Retrieved February 5, 2021 from https://www.ccohs.ca//oshanswers/chemicals/chem_profiles/ammonia.html
  6. Occupational Safety and Health Standards as amended
  7. Department of Environment and Natural Resources Administrative Order 29-92: Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act 6969
  8. Department of Labor and Employment Department Order 198: Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act 11058
  9. Garcia, M. (2021). Ammonia leak incident leaves some Navotas folk traumatized. Retrieved February 5, 2021 from https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/metro/774669/ammmonia-leak-incident-leaves-some-navotas-folk-traumatized/story/

PhilHealth hike deferment, caused by widespread opposition

President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the deferment of the scheduled 3% hike in PhilHealth members’ contribution because of the widespread opposition of Filipino workers and the public. The Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (IOHSAD) credits the Filipino workers and people’s opposition, not this government’s supposed concern, for this action.

Workers and most Filipinos know that any rate increase is unacceptable during the present health and economic crises. Many migrant workers were laid off from work and are now at home, jobless. Many workers were also retrenched, while many workers who were retained face  wage cuts and work reduction. Those who go to work do so facing huge risks to their health and very lives.

More than 3.8 million Filipinos are unemployed. The prices of basic goods and services have increased with an inflation rate at 3.5%. The country is mired in debt: we will be paying for PhP 11.98 trillion in debt with 58.1% of the Gross Domestic Product this year, and preparing for the PhP 13.7 trillion of debt consuming 59.9% of the GDP in 2022.

PhilHealth does not deserve any increase in members’ contributions.
(1) PhilHealth members were almost left to fend for ourselves when financial assistance and social protection were insufficient during the lockdowns and continued company shutdowns.
(2) It did not lessen health care costs as out-of-pocket spending still covers nearly half of the country’s health expenditure.
(3) Despite receiving 25% of the PhP 278.5 billion health budget, it did not safeguard our contributions as its officials illegally released funds during the pandemic, misused its operating budget to pay off taxes using said funds, window-dressed their financial statements, and bloated their budget proposals for excess funding.
(4) Ultimately, it destroyed our trust as soon as its officials were exposed to have pocketed around PhP 15 billion. An increase in members’ contributions further removes the responsibility of health care provision from the government and transfers the burden to the already-vulnerable. Health is a right and should be a top priority of the government, especially during this pandemic. While the World Health Organization or WHO does not identify an absolute percentage of public spending needed to achieve health for all, it did recognize the significance of financial protection and service coverage.

The government should put the health of its workers and people first, relieving us of the burden to finance our health and ensuring access to quality health care anywhere in the country. Workers and Filipinos need a tax-funded health insurance with a well-connected health care system, not a privatization safety net scheme like PhilHealth.

Sancelan couple killing puts communities at risk, lack of health care

The Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (IOHSAD) condemns the killing of Dr. Mary Rose Sancelan and her husband, Edwin Sancelan, while on their way home last December 15, 2020. Despite serving as government employees in Negros Oriental, Dr. Sancelan was Number 1 in a list of persons who were accused of being communists by a supposed vigilante group in 2018 [1,2]. The Sancelan couple’s death shows that the government failed to protect them, or even abetted attacks against them.

At a time when everyone is placed in a vulnerable position by an evolving disease that our pre-existing health care system is struggling to contain, those who are helping people and serving at the frontlines were not spared from these attacks. This is unacceptable! Dr. Sancelan was the sole doctor in Guihulngan municipality, served 33 barangays and headed the inter-agency task force responsible for containing COVID-19 in their region. She was one of the many health workers trying to hold our disjointed health care system together amidst the unequal capacities of local governments to do so, while the national government continues to transfer the burden of controlling the pandemic to local governments.

By failing to protect — nay, possibly abetting the attacks against — Dr. Sancelan, the government did not only place a whole community at the risk of COVID-19 but also added that community in the rising list of Filipinos without access to health care at a time it is needed the most.

At a time when Filipinos should be united in acting against a common enemy that has taken lives worldwide, the Philippine government has taken advantage of the crisis caused by the common enemy for its narrow agenda.

When the very people trying to fill in the gaps of government incompetence are the ones put in a bad light and attacked, it is clear that the government is not for its people but rather for itself. We put such a high pressure on employers to control hazards and minimize risks to ensure the safety and health of employees at work. The government should do the same.

We have seen the length that this administration is willing to take to silence its critics and those it perceives as its critics: peddling fake news, dismissing people from positions, imprisoning and killing people. It has tried to prevent people from criticizing this government’s supposed “achievements” and its violations of the law and human rights. Calls for accountability are met with retaliation such as the arrest of six unionists and one journalist on International Human Rights Day, no less[3].

Killings in the guise of keeping peace and order are not new to this administration. The war on drugs claimed at least 27,000 lives[4] while Oplan Sauron in Negros caused at least 20 deaths[5]. Rodrigo Duterte’s term has also made the country the most dangerous place for environmental activists, with 113 deaths since he took office[6].

There is already a reasonable basis for the International Criminal Court or ICC to believe that crimes against humanity were committed by this administration[7] and the occurrence of a pandemic did not seem to slow the carrying out of these crimes.

[1]https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1372625/red-tagged-doctor-husband-slain-in-negros

[2]https://news.abs-cbn.com/blogs/opinions/12/16/20/dr-mary-rose-sancelan-she-saved-lives-and-murder-was-her-reward

[3]https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1370457/police-arrest-7-as-ph-marks-human-rights-day

[4]https://news.abs-cbn.com/focus/12/05/18/chr-chief-drug-war-deaths-could-be-as-high-as-27000

[5]https://www.rappler.com/nation/negros-killings-death-comes-unprovoked

[6]https://globalnation.inquirer.net/180127/113-environmental-activists-killed-since-duterte-assumed-office-intl-group

[7]https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2020/12/16/2064113/icc-sees-crimes-against-humanity-philippines-drug-war

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

Skyway accident: govt accountability, OSH reforms needed — IOHSAD

The recent Skyway accident further exposes the Duterte government’s longstanding disregard for occupational safety and health (OSH). It also highlights the urgent need to conduct OSH investigation and inspection on all workplaces even under the current community quarantine.

The Philippines has had a poor track record in upholding OSH standards, with our compliance rates ranging from 88% at best and 64% at worst [1]. This track record has caused many workplace accidents and deaths and the struggles against these fueled legislation to uphold OSH. These struggles gave birth to what we know now as Republic Act No. 11058 entitled “An Act Strengthening Compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Standards and Providing Penalties for Violations Thereof” in 2018.

However, the implementation of Department Order 198 titled “Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act No. 11058” did not improve the status of OSH in the country. Our OSH compliance even dropped to 67.50% in 2018 and reached an all-time low at 34.17% this year[2].

Crucial elements of OSH remain overlooked with most enterprises still without first-aiders, the appropriate number of Occupational Health Personnel and facilities, and the mandatory 8-hour annual refresher course for these individuals[2]. Inspection remains a challenge, with only 597 labor inspectors and 34 labor auditors[3] for around 900,00 private establishments nationwide[4]. Non-fatal occupational injuries increased to 20,328 in 2018 from 17,703 in 2015 while deaths from occupational accidents climbed to 469 in 2018 from 156 in 2015[5,6].

It is evident that companies continue to sacrifice worker welfare for the sake of production deadlines and profits without fear of retaliation from the law. Administrative fines are not enough! Our workers deserve better!

In the end, it is the struggle of workers and the public that will force enterprises and the government to uphold OSH and ultimately protect the health and lives of the country’s workers. Let us demand a thorough investigation of workplace accidents, accurate inspection of all workplaces, and criminalization of OSH violators!

A life lost from a preventable event is one death too many. Call for #SafeWorkplacesNow!

[1] Public Hearing on Occupational Safety and Health, Senate, August 2019

[2] Department of Labor and Employment, Bureau of Working Conditions (2020). Labor Inspection Report. Retrieved November 23, 2020 from http://www.bwc.dole.gov.ph/…/Jun2020/Phil_Jun2020.pdf

[3] Department of Labor and Employment (2020). Administrative Order No. 06 Series of 2020. Retrieved November 23, 2020 from https://bwc.dole.gov.ph/…/AO_06_20…

[4] Department of Labor and Employment (2020). Labor inspection of establishments resumes. Retrieved November 23, 2020 from https://www.dole.gov.ph/…/labor-inspection-of…/

[5] Philippine Statistics Authority (2020). 2017/2018 Integrated Survey on Labor and Employment[6] Philippine Statistics Authority. BLES Integrated Survey/Occupational Injuries Survey/Integrated Survey on Labor and Employment