Workers' group foresees 7,000 job cuts due to coronavirus outbreak


Posted at Feb 29 2020 03:41 PM

MANILA - The country's largest workers group said Saturday it was anticipating layoffs of up to 7,000 employees in the hospitality industry due to the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

This, after flag carrier Philippine Airlines laid off 300 employees due to revenue losses over travel restrictions and flight suspensions to areas affected by the novel coronavirus.

Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) president and party-list Rep. Raymond Mendoza said PAL's retrenchment would trigger more layoffs in its service providers, such as hotels, restaurants, land transport service, logistics and catering.

"It is now inevitable that other airlines, to cope with the crisis, will also make similar retrenchments of non-essential jobs which will also affect workers down their supply chains" he said.

Due to the adverse economic effect of COVID-19, Filipinos working in passenger cruise and cargo ships could also be affected, Mendoza said.

"Job orders for Filipino seafarers are zero. Other Filipino crew in other cruise ships are about to be sent home in the next few weeks including those with unexpired contract in case passenger bookings being monitored by ship operators and shipowners [are] unable to meet the number of passengers required for the trip," he said.

Also seen to be affected are land-based overseas Filipino workers, such as teachers, drivers, entertainers, cooks, waiters, receptionists and household service workers. 

Some local companies, Mendoza said, are implementing coping measures such as forced leaves and work-from-home arrangements to avoid losses.

To cushion the economic and social impact of COVID-19, TUCP is in talks with employment agencies to abide by their collective bargaining agreements with their unionized crew and give reasonable retrenchment and separation packages to those who do not have contracts.

The group also called on government to convene the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council composed of labor, business and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and the Department of Finance (DOF) to craft mitigating measures.

The tripartite social dialogue practice was institutionalized in 1990 through Executive Order No. 403 and in 2013 through Republic Act 10395, the tripartism law, to promote industrial peace and establish mechanisms to avoid industrial strife among workers and business owners.

The biggest labor federation of unions, the Associated Labor Unions (ALU), als supports the idea of social dialogue between workers and employers.

Among issues commonly raised by employees are the treatment of employees during extraordinary working circumstances, such as whether employers may terminate or suspend employment contracts, suspend some provisions of collective bargaining agreements between unions and management, and how to pay remuneration to employees who are required or under self-quarantine imposed by management or government.

"We are pushing and advocating for these bilateral conversations so that changes, formulations or COVID-19-influenced company policies are acceptable and business decisions are fair to workers," ALU national executive vice president Gerard Seno said.

More than 83,000 people, mostly in its origin China, have been infected with the contagious coronavirus, triggering global travel restrictions that has affected supply chains.