By Chito Chavez
After the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) took effect in Metro Manila and other provinces on May 16, labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) on Saturday said the government should provide rides to workers as more businesses are now allowed to resume operations, without, however, the restoration of public transportation.
KMU secretary-general Jerome Adonis insisted the government should assume this responsibility as “the workers cannot be made to suffer from walking for hours over long distances.’’
“We want to work to contribute to economy, get the economy running again, and because there is no or very little aid coming to our families. But returning to work in this epidemic is hazardous and workers should be provided with safe transportation,” he said.
Adonis noted the government should recognize that the current MECQ situation will be difficult for workers because public transportation is still banned.
He acknowledged that firms should provide rides to the workers, but asserted that public transportation “is really the key to enable workers to traverse major thoroughfares of Metro Manila.”
“Aside from trains and buses, public utility jeepneys are also needed at least for collector roads,” he added.
Earlier, the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), and the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) stated that there is no assurance that companies will provide transportation or that they cannot provide sufficient transportation for their employees.
In April, KMU said that MAP already asked the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) and the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to allow the operations of the current fleets of buses and trains that are capable of transporting 250,000 workers or the estimated skeletal workforce in Metro Manila.
KMU also demanded the operation of public transportation provided with operational guidelines for safety and health, and for companies to provide supplemental transportation.
Adonis noted that transportation is one of KMU’s demands along with mass testing, hazard pay, strict safety and health measures at workplaces, and free medical treatment as workers return to work in area under MECQ and general community quarantine (GCQ).
The group also said the government should give financial aid for transport workers as they lost their livelihood during the two-month lockdown, adding that the community quarantines and the health crisis should not be used as excuses to phase out jeepneys.