13 May 2020
LABOR GROUP: MODIFIED ECQ IS OUT TO SAVE PROFIT MARGINS WHILE SACRIFICING WORKERS' RIGHTS, HEALTH, AND WELFARE
The Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) reproached the Duterte Administration's decision to ease the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in most provinces by allowing select industries to resume operations without sufficient mass testing and adequate health facilities.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced yesterday that starting May 15 NCR, Laguna Province, and Cebu City would transition to Modified ECQ while several other provinces will be placed under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) and Modified GCQ until May 31.
Under Modified ECQ, aside from essential industries, certain manufacturing and processing industries shall be allowed to resume operations at half capacity, while more businesses will be allowed to reopen at 75% and full capacity under GCQ and Modified GCQ respectively.
BMP President Luke Espiritu said, “President Duterte has yielded to the lobby by capital and technocrats, who have been pushing for the resumption of business since late March. They do not intend to “flatten the curve” of COVID19 transmissions and mortality rates. They are more concerned with the flattening of the GDP growth rate, which at the establishment-level is reflected by flat-lining profit margins”.
The labor leader cited the latest data of DOH, which showed that mass testing has only reached 0.1% of the population. He added, “We are virtually blind to the real extent of contamination to the deadly novel coronavirus. A second wave of transmission, with the resumed mobility of the working population, will deliver the death blow to our already frail and failing health care systems”.
The BMP revealed that renewed outbreaks in South Korea, China, and Germany - countries that were praised earlier for their handling of the pandemic - should make the government more cautious rather than eager to ease quarantine.
“Most workers may actually support the easing of the quarantine restrictions without regard to their own personal safety. We appeal to the toiling majority to exercise caution and to refrain from reckless abandon. Capital is again playing on the desperation of the propertyless masses. Our mostly unorganized and non-unionized labor force is willing to endure starvation wages, contractualization and unsafe working conditions to provide for the basic needs of their families before the onslaught of COVID19. Now, capitalists are banking on the amplified misery and distress of a quarantined population, who now seek employment without regard to their own safety and welfare,” Espiritu clarified.
He added, “With the easing of the restrictions without sufficient mass testing and adequate health and safety protocols, workers would be sacrificial lambs to the altars of profit. After all, they could easily be replaced by the unemployed millions - the reserve labor force - who could easily be called upon for active yet contractual economic service, at lower wages. To them, falling profit margins are more alarming than rising mortality rates”.
SUSPENDING WORKERS' RIGHTS AND DISPENSE OF LABOR JUSTICE
In a previous statement, the BMP criticized the return-to-work guidelines issued by the DOLE and DTI for not instituting active monitoring and corresponding penalties to employers who do not ensure the safety of their employees.
Further, the BMP warned against the recent D.O. 213, issued by Labor Secretary Bello last May 5, which suspended all labor inspections, hearings, labor standards cases, and other legal proceedings until the lifting of the quarantine period. Espiritu asserted, “It is tantamount to not only to the virtual abolition of the workers’ right to complain against employers who would violate the return-to work guidelines, it would likewise undermine the dispense of justice to workers who are disadvantaged by prolonged and protracted legal battles”.
The socialist labor group also reacted to a statement by Malacanang spokesperson Harry Roque, who said that only families living in areas that remain under ECQ will receive the second tranche of cash aid.
Espiritu concluded, "The unfavorable odds are stacked against Filipino workers. They are stripped of the right to compel their employers to follow health protocols and labor standards. Half are being compelled to return to work without mass testing, sufficient medical resources, and hazard pay. The other half has been disqualified from receiving any economic relief from government. Now, with the reckless reopening of businesses, we are facing the mass murder of the Filipino working class under the guise of saving workers’ incomes but, in truth, is no other than the salvaging of falling rates of profit”!