MANILA — The country’s top officials on Saturday marked Labor Day honoring the Filipino worker in the face of unprecedented challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with President Rodrigo Duterte assuring an improved work environment and Vice President Leni Robredo seeking action on long-running labor issues.
In his Labor Day message, Duterte made special mention of health care workers and essential frontliners “for their unwavering commitment in ensuring the unhampered delivery of goods and services that continue to sustain our communities and industries during these difficult times.”
“Today, we find new meaning in our annual commemoration of Labor Day. This year, we honor our Filipino workers who— fueled not just by the desire to support their families and advance their careers— have tirelessly toiled these past several months to ensure that our society will continue to function in the face of an unprecedented health crisis that crippled industries around the world,” he said.
Addressing Filipino workers, including those overseas, Duterte said his administration “will endeavor to work as vigorously as you have” to ensure a safe and stable work environment, where workers’ rights “are not only upheld and protected but also cherished as the foundations of a strong and thriving workforce.”
Robredo, meanwhile, recognized contributions of Filipino workers to society and throughout history.
She said marking Labor Day should not just be about praising and acknowledging the sacrifice of Filipino workers, but also taking “concrete action” to address issues long hounding the Philippine workforce.
These include contractual labor, abuse of migrant and local workers, and struggles wrought by the pandemic, from limits to public transportation to joblessness.
“Ipinakita sa atin ng pandemya: Ang manggagawang Pilipino ang lakas ng ating ekonomiya. Sama-sama nating itaguyod ang kanilang mga karapatan at kapakanan, at sama-sama tayong sumulong sa mas ligtas, mas patas, at mas makataong mundo para sa bawat manggagawa at bawat Pilipino,” she said.
(The pandemic has shown us: The Filipino worker is the strength of our economy. Together, let us uphold their rights and welfare and move forward to a safer, more equal and more humane environment for every worker and every Filipino.)
The COVID-19 pandemic has crippled the Philippine economy leading to record-level unemployment, with 4.2 million Filipinos jobless as of February 2021.
With the surge in cases forcing the resumption of stricter lockdowns, shuttering businesses anew, an estimated 1.5 million lost their jobs in March, according to the trade department.