By Chito Chavez
Several environmental groups on Tuesday strongly pushed the government to compensate frontline ecological workers with substantial hazard pays during the duration of the novel coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) lockdown.
In a letter sent through e-mail to four department secretaries, EcoWaste Coalition pointed to the need to provide assigned garbage men particularly household waste and healthcare waste collectors “with some kind of hazard compensation due to the heightened health and safety risks they face in the conduct of their duties and responsibilities amid the COVID-19 outbreak’’.
The Quezon City-based group calculated that the hazard pay should cover the days from March 17 until the (enhanced community quarantine ECQ) is lifted.
While President Duterte through Administrative Order No. 26 has authorized the provision of hazard pay to government employees who physically report for work during the ECQ period, the environmental groups noted this “same entitlement may not apply to most garbage collectors who are often hired by waste management companies contracted by local government units’’.
The environmental groups had furnished Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu, Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, and Budget Management Secretary Wendel Avisado with their proposal.
“As frontliners from the environmental sector in the country’s determined efforts to prevent and control COVID-19, we believe that garbage collectors are entitled to hazard pay — regardless of their employment status – due to the risks they face in the performance of essential waste management services, which can be considered hazardous, especially under the extraordinary circumstances brought about by the coronavirus outbreak,” said Eileen Sison, president of EcoWaste Coalition.
“The lack of clear-cut regulations for the disposal of infectious waste from households, as well as the apparent increase in the disposal of infectious waste from healthcare facilities, justify the provision of hazard pay for these frontline environmental workers,’’ the group noted.
Without their indispensable service, Sison said “we may be faced with even more environmental and health hazards from uncollected waste”.
In the absence of a law requiring employers from providing their employees with hazard pay, EcoWaste Coalition requested the four department secretaries “to use moral suasion to strongly encourage employers of garbage collectors — be they private companies or LGUs — to grant them daily hazard pay during the ECQ period.”
As some waste management companies and/or LGUs may be unwilling or financially constrained to offer hazard pay for garbage collectors, the group requested the national government to take on such responsibility with urgency as a humanitarian gesture in these most trying times.
“Such action will be in sync with Republic Act 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, particularly on the ‘provision of safety nets to all affected sectors’ of COVID-19. These can be factored in the social amelioration benefits, or the disaster funds of the LGUs,” the EcoWaste Coalition added.
Several labor organizations have supported the provision of hazard pay for garbage collectors that is being pushed by the EcoWaste Coalition through e-mails and text messages sent to the group.
Among the groups backing the proposed hazard pay for garbage collectors are the Associated Labor Unions – Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP), Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP-NCR), Consolidated Council of Health and Allied Profession (CCHAP-PSLINK), Federation of Free Workers (FFW), National Public Workers Congress (PUBLIK), Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK), and the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO). (Chito Chavez)#