The garment and wearables sector, which directly employs over 180,000 workers, has urged for an aggressive clear-cut national agenda at this time of pandemic where manufacturers have a strong voice at the Inter Agency Task Force (IATF) to the represented by the Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
Maritess Jocson-Agoncillo, executive director of the Confederation of Wearable Exporters of the Philippines (CONWEP), during a recent webinar noted that “the ones carrying the ball at the IATF is definitely the Department of Health Secretary and all the czars” but the Labor Secretary must have a strong voice in the task force.
She cited the presence of the Department of Trade and Industry Secretary at the IATF meetings, but noted the intermittent presence of the DOLE Secretary.
“The problem is this government has to put up something an aggressive tripartite discussion with us. Our Department of Labor has to have an aggressive say in the IATF,” she pointed out.
Agoncillo lamented the fact that the IATF does not even consider their situation when they decide to impose a lockdown stressing ,”It seems like simple things like when this body IATF says lockdown okay, but they don’t even give, allow us space with all these problems of mobility and so easy for them to say. I hope there is department of labor here.”
“We should have an aggressive tripartite agenda wherein our DOLE has its own pool of resources and backed up remedies from Bayanihan law to provide subsidies to sustain jobs not just to feed a month or P5,000 social amelioration. There should be a clear cut agenda that we can work out with the government to come up with something of a policy,” she stressed.
CONWEP, which employs over 62,000 workers of which 180,000 are direct employees, suggested that all these costs there must be a national policy where all these additional cost be deductible to their tax payments. They would like to become part of the stimulus package being prepared by the legislature to sustain in the next two to three years.
This aggressive tripartite agenda should have a coordinated approach, she said, because all the burdens have been charged to employees.
Even the big manufacturers like the CONWEP members are having real difficulties with all the health and safety protocols being imposed by the government that also add up to their cost.
For instance, she said, they can only operate at 50 percent capacity because of social distancing and they have to provide shuttle services for workers. She estimated that shuttle service could cost $10,000 for shuttle services already.
“If you are a small firm and you have ten employees and they are all over metro manila and your cost is already a hundred, you can see it, you can see it in grocery. I was talking to one grocery guy they have a shuttle for the first few weeks but the shuttle was stopped because business cannot sustain it,” he said.
In addition, the manufacturing sector is required and pay for the rapid test of employees. They have to resort to rapid test because they cannot afford the P6,000 PCR. Rapid test initially costs P700 a piece from the initial P1,000. Companies have also to do the rapid test every six weeks.
She said if companies like them are feeling the pinch, how more for the MSMEs.