Labor dept urged to assist displaced workers due to virus outbreak

Michael Delizo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 01 2020 01:49 PM | Updated as of Mar 01 2020 09:58 PM

Labor dept urged to assist displaced workers due to virus outbreak 1
Passengers wearing protective masks walk towards the departure entrance of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines, Feb. 18, 2020. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters

MANILA - Philippine lawmakers on Sunday urged the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to provide assistance to workers who may be displaced due to the worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Under the 2020 national budget, DOLE has P112.62 million for its adjustment measures program and P6.8 billion for the assistance of disadvantaged and displaced workers such as tour operators and vehicle rentals, according to Sen. Sonny Angara.

“Para sa mga kababayan natin na nawalan na ng hanapbuhay dahil sa pagkalugi ng kanilang kumpanya o sector, may mga tulong pinansyal na nakaloob sa ating Department of Labor and Employment na pwedeng gamiting pantawid habang wala pang nahahanap na kapalit na trabaho,” the senator said in a statement.

(To our compatriots who lost their livelihood because of losses incurred by their company or sector, there are financial aid from the Department of Labor and Employment that can be tapped for temporary relief while you are looking for another job.)

Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite, meantime, said DOLE should implement more comprehensive measures, such as assisting those who were laid off to find a new job. 

"Ang gusto nating matiyak, long-term employment. Hindi short-term employment. Hindi 'yung walang katiyakan na matatanggal ka na lamang," he said. 

(What we want to ensure is long-term employment, not short-term employment or one that offers uncertainty.)

At least 7,000 workers are about to be laid off within the next six months due to the virus outbreak, according to the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP).

The Philippine Airlines earlier said it would let go of 300 employees under a "business restructuring" made more urgent by the coronavirus outbreak that slowed world air travel.

"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," TUCP President and TUCP Party-list Rep. Raymond 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."

In a media forum in Manila Sunday, Labor Undersecretary Benjo Benavidez said companies are mandated by law to provide separation pay and unemployment insurance. 

He said DOLE's mandate was to ensure that affected workers are getting reasonable compensation. 

"Kami po ang pumupunta mismo sa mga employer para nang sa gayon ay taasan naman 'yung mga separation packages," Benavidez said.

(We go to employers so that the separation packages are enhanced.)

According to him, at least 182 displaced workers of PAL have voluntarily accepted separation pay. 

He added that they are also coordinating with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority to provide training to displaced workers. 

The House Committee on Labor is set to conduct hearing on Tuesday to determine more benefits and assistance for workers. 

"Kailangan tingnan natin ano pa ang mga puwedeng provisions other than the company or mga institutions tulad ng SSS, na aralin, ano pang puwedeng ibigay liban sa program ng Department of Labor para makatulong sa kanilang kalagayan," Gaite said.

(We need to find out other provisions other than the company or institutions like the SSS, that may be studied, and what else can be extended other than from the program of the Department of Labor, to help the plight of workers.)