Does the government deserve a passing grade in its response to workers’ needs amidst the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic?
This was the question tossed by Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Commissioner Gwen Pimentel-Gana to labor and union leaders during its “Tanggol Karapatan” episode on “Plight of Workers During Pandemic” hosted by Radyo Veritas last May 1, Labor Day.
Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) Spokesperson Alan Tanjusay graded the government with a “very average” performance.
He said that President Duterte should be a more “proactive leader” who takes concrete steps to what he promises to do.
On the other hand, Vicente “Jun” Unay Jr., Secretary General of National Union of Power Industry- SENTRO, gave the government a “fail” grade in terms of addressing labor needs.
“It is hard to hand out a grade,” Commissioner Gana confessed.
While there are “walang pagbabago” (no changes) made in terms of government response to workers’ needs, Gana acknowledged that a lot of government agencies such as the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) are constantly updating their policies to address the current needs and issues of Filipino workers.
“The government I know a lot of agencies, maraming sariling pagtugon sa mga pangangailangan ng workers, kanya kanyang response (many of them have their own responses to the needs of workers, and they have their own response),” she said.
She stressed that the government alone cannot address the issue of unemployment and should work together with employers for the benefit of all Filipino workers.
“Hindi naman natin pwede sabihin na kasalanan lahat ng employers, kasalanan lahat ng gobyerno, kasalanan lahat ng manggagawa kasi extraordinary ang pagkakataon na ito. Ang kalaban natin ay hindi natin nakikita, which is COVID-19, (We cannot say that it is all the fault of the employers, all the fault of the government, all the fault of the workers because this situation is extraordinary. We cannot even see our enemy, which is COVID-19),” Gana pointed out.
“Pero hindi excuse ang COVID-19 para ipangsatabi ang karapatan ng mga manggagawa. Talagang dapat respetuhin pa din, (But COVID-19 should not be used as an excuse to disregard the rights of the workers. We should still respect them),” she said.