By Hannah Torregoza and Leslie Aquino
Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara on Sunday urged the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to conduct a survey of all companies that are laying off workers due to the COVID-19.
Taking note of the Philippine Airlines’ (PAL) move to lay off 300 of its personnel, Angara warned the government cannot afford to be complacent in addressing the impact of the COVID-19 on the economy.
“We have been spared from deaths caused by COVID-19 but sadly the pandemic has taken away the jobs of 300 hardworking men and women of our country’s flag carrier,” Angara said.
“There is no end in sight yet and more countries are implementing drastic measures to keep their citizens safe, including our own,” he added.
The DOLE is also verifying reports that dozens of foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong have been fired amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
DOLE Assistant Secretary Benjo Benavides said said they will also verify the claim of a labor group that 7,000 workers are about to be laid off in the next six months as more enterprises are forced to implement retrenchment programs to cope with the business losses caused by the COVID-19.
“First, we want to verify where these workers are, what province, region they are from, so we can extend the necessary help,” Benavides said.
“If it’s about the virus, most likely they are in the service industry like hotels and restaurants. So, most probably they are in regions or provinces being visited by tourists,” he added.
Benavides said if ever there are workers who will be retrenched, they should be given separation pay. Some companies, he said, offer a good separation packages.
“There are those that give a much higher separation package and this is also what we are appealing to employers (to do),” said Benavides.
Senator Angara, chairman of the the Senate Finance Committee, said it is imperative that the government has mechanisms in place to shield the economic sector from the negative effects of the coronavirus.
“Our authorities should prepare for the worst and insulate, not only our people from the virus, but also our industries from being downed by COVID-19,” he added.
As a first step, he said the labor department should already be conducting a survey of all companies that are laying-off its workers due to a slowdown of economic activity, be it COVID-19-related or other factors.
He pointed out not all companies are the size of PAL, which could afford to provide separation packages to its affected employees.
Angara noted there are smaller players, particularly those in the tourism sector such as the tour guides, bed and breakfast operators, and vehicle rentals who need the foreign visitors to put food on their tables.
But for local constituents who lost their jobs due because their company went bankrupt, he said, DOLE offers financial assistance which they can use during their transition period.
Under the 2020 General Appropriations Act, the DOLE has P112.62-million for its Adjustment Measures Program and P6.8-billion for its Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers or TUPAD.
“Now more than ever our entire government should work together in making our domestic industries stronger, more competitive, productive, and resilient,” he said.
“This way they will be less prone to external shocks and continue to provide jobs to our people, uplift their communities and bring the Philippines closer to being an industrialized nation,” Angara added.
Labor group Defend Jobs Philippines on Sunday called on President Duterte and DOLE to resolve the growing number of terminated Filipino workers.
According to the group, around 2,087 Filipino workers will be jobless in two months as various companies have already announced plans to terminate their workers due to planned plant shutdowns and streamlining reasons.
Defend Jobs Philippines said the 2,087 workers who will be terminated are from Nokia (700 workers), Wells Fargo (700 workers), Honda (387 workers) and Philippine Airlines (300 workers).
The labor group said the figure will add-up to the unemployed Filipino workforce which is now at 4.7 million.
Thadeus Ifurung, Defend Jobs Philippines spokesperson, said that the sudden increase of mass lay-offs must be enough basis for alarm and for the government to take up preemptive measures to resolve the imminent “employment crisis” in the country.