By Leslie Ann Aquino
Labor groups have called for the convening of the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council (NTIPC) amid the coromavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak.
The Federation of Free Workers (FFW) and other trade unions belonging to the Nagkaisa Labor Coalition said Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III should call for an emergency meeting of the NTIPC to effectively address the health, social and economic impacts of COVID-19 on workers and businesses.
“Workers, who are the majority of our populace, are facing the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Society’s failure to protect the majority and government’s seeming overemphasis on iron hand solutions will further increase the spread of the disease,” said Atty. Sonny Matula, president of the FFW, said in a statement.
According to FFW, they have been receiving complaints about non-compensated self- and health facility-based quarantine of workers suspected of contacting the virus.
“We appreciate the allotment of SSS to provide P1.2 billions for unemployment insurance for the 60,000 would be displaced workers and the DOLE initiative to mitigate the pandemic’s impact to jobs and employment but we find them inadequate,” said FFW Vice President for Luzon Bonifacio Frilles of the BPI Family Bank Employees Union-FFW.
As part of the TIPC, the trade unions call on the government to discuss special provisions that must be made to immediately extend paid 14-day quarantine leave, sick-leave entitlements to workers who lack them, and to improve sick leave provisions where they exist, as well as to ensure working conditions and arrangements that preserve jobs and provide protection to workers.
“FFW urgently calls for the provision of an emergency fund for immediate purchase of face masks and personnel protective equipment for medical and hospital personnel and workers—both in public and private sectors,” said union president Manuel Payao, RN, who is also the Chair of Trade Federation 8 of FFW for hospital, medical, education and public service unions.
The trade unions also proposed that all workers should be provided free medical testing, treatment, training, and equipment and facilities for training, especially if they are performing medical services and are frontline service providers, regardless of employment status.
“We emphasize that the privacy and personal information of workers must be protected as they undergo medical and other examinations and checks as part of responses to the threat posed by COVID-19,” said Aida Brillante, vice president for Mindanao of the FFW.