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In the midst of the pandemic, affected laborers appeal for support from employers

Words by Shaina Ariane Masangkay

As confirmed COVID-19 cases among workers increase, a labor formation in Southern Tagalog called for companies to act immediately on the needs of their employees.

According to the Covid-19 Labor Watch group, there have been reports in the workforces of Alaska Milk Corporation, Coca-Cola Sta. Rosa, Edward Keller Philippines, Inc., Interphil. Nexperia Philippines, Inc., Nippon Densan Corporation (NIDEC) Philippines, Optodev, Inc., and TS Tech Trim Philippines, Inc. among others.

Mula nang payagan na ang pagpasok ng mas maraming manggagawa sa pagawaan, dumami din ang bilang ng mga manggagawa na nagkaroon ng COVID-19,” the group said in a statement.

Jesus Cabel, the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) zone manager in Laguna Technopark, Inc., said that 30 out of 140 companies in Laguna Technopark have reported positive cases among their employees.

“Worried agad [ako]. Since nakapasok na sa company namin ang COVID, kahit sino pwede na macompromise ang health. Considering may mga asymptomatic cases pa. Hindi malalaman sino meron sa wala,” an employee of a Laguna-based food manufacturing company said.

Additionally, a member of the Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan- Kilusang Mayo Uno (PAMANTIK-KMU) claimed that workers are dissuaded from working due to fear of exposure and lack of compensation.

“Personally, matagal na itong fear ng mga workers kahit mismo nung lockdown pa, pero karamihan ay dissuaded to work dahil nga sa exposure while ang iba ay hindi pinapapasok without compensation,” he said.

A shortfall in support

On July 29, the Laguna Provincial Office ordered a 24-hour temporary shutdown for the NIDEC Philippines Corporation. This was after 290 out of 8,000 employees have tested positive in COVID-19.

The company conducted swab and rapid tests among their employees and implemented a 14-day quarantine with pay to help them and their employees.

A contractual NIDEC worker under the Powerlane agency, who requested to not be named, discussed the company and agency’s, insufficient support for their contractual and workers who also tested positive to the virus. She claimed to be one of the workers who stayed in the company due to the lockdown restrictions.

Noon pong nagpatawag ng mga mag iistay in, isa po ako sa napasama dahil po double pay po kaya po ako nag-stay-in at may allowance po kami 250 araw-araw. Pero kahit ganun paman, oo malaki ang sinasahod namin, pero hindi maganda ang kalagayan namin sa loob bilang stay-in,” she stated.

After Laguna transitioned to general community quarantine (GCQ) last June 1, 2020, the worker and her colleagues were transferred to a dorm rented by the company in Biñan. However, they decided to go home after they were requested to pay a P1000 rent per month after June 30.

Although there were already reports of cases among the employees, they nevertheless continued to work.

Sabi ng regular sa aming group leader sa area namin [hu]wag daw matakot kasi panggabi naman daw yung nag-positive. Kami naman daw ay pang-umaga,” she explained.

On July 28, five days after her swab test, the worker discovered that she tested positive. Though, it was only last August 4 that she was informed of the result.

Hanggang ngayon ni kahit konting tulong walang binigay ang company ng NIDEC sa aming mga contractual. Yung mga naka-home quarantine na 14 days, binayaran po nila pero hindi po kasama ang mga contractual para lang po sa mga regular employee yung 14 days home quarantine with pay,” she added.

A call to action

In response to these issues, workers from the Southern Tagalog region have petitioned for mass testing and financial assistance for those who lost their jobs.

Last August 3, the labor watch filed a petition to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Region IV-A, in the hopes of addressing the need for immediate relief of workers affected by the pandemic. The PAMANTIK-KMU member said that since the lockdown began, labor groups demanded for these so that employees could go back to work, adding that financial aid for jobless workers caused by pandemic should be ensured.

According to the labor watch, the DOLE Region IV-A should persuade the companies to conduct free mass testing on its workers and provide financial assistance worth P10,000 to those affected, especially to the recently unemployed.

Magkakaiba ang pagtugon ng mga kumpanya sa pagharap sa COVID-19, partikular sa kaligtasan ng kanilang mga mangagawa. Mayroong mga kumpanya na walang plano para sa testing ng kanilang mga manggagawa. Mayroon naming mga kumpanya na sasagutin ang PCR [real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction-based testing] o swab test kapag nagpositibo sa rapid, ngunit ito ay dahil pa sa pakikipagnegosasyon ng unyon,” they added.

The group emphasized the need for contact tracing and mass testing, the regular disinfection in industrial companies, and door-to-door transport service. Moreover, the group requests to provide workers with health and safety paraphernalia such as face masks and face shields, and anti-COVID facilities like sanitation booths. [P]

Photo from Inquirer.net

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