“PROVIDE the people with jobs and amelioration, not lockdowns.”
This was the call of the local labor group, General Alliance of Workers Associations (Gawa), in reaction to the implementation of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila and other areas in the National Capital Region (NCR).
Its secretary general, Wennie Sancho, said in a statement that it was generally admitted that “we are in a far worse situation today than we were in August last year.”
Sancho said the country is back to square one due to virus mutation, according to the government. But most people are asking: if the response of the government to coronavirus disease (Covid-19) was excellent, how come that NCR was back to ECQ again?
"Lockdown is not the ultimate solution against the spread of the virus, but the strict implementation of standard health protocols, massive contact tracing and to fast-track the vaccination program of the government," he said, adding that people must be employed to survive economically.
The Negros Occidental-based labor group said unemployment brings untold sufferings and psychological trauma to the jobless workers and their families.
Gawa cited the spike of unemployment in Western Visayas from 5.6 percent in January 2020 to 9.1 percent in January 2021. It will lead to an all-time-high jobless rate if there is a lockdown, it said.
Sancho, also the labor representative to the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) in Western Visayas, said it is unfortunate that in the midst of pandemic, majority of the workers particularly in the informal sectors are underpaid, underfed and underemployed.
Sancho said it is exacerbated by the killings of activist-labor leaders who are being "red-tagged."
The chilling effect of these happenings is the sudden decline in labor union organizing, he added.
Gawa appealed to the employers to suspend the no-work-no-pay scheme during the Holy Week to augment the meager income of the workers.
It called for the granting of emergency relief allowances to the workers for those employers who can afford, or provision of a sack of rice every month to the families of the workers as a gesture of compassion in these trying and difficult times.
All workers in general are affected nationwide whether they are under ECQ or not, its official pointed out.
Gawa also supported the call of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry to allow the private sector to import Covid-19 vaccine without restriction so that the workers in the private sector can avail of the vaccine.
"The workers and the business sector are the engine of growth of our economy they should be protected so that our economy could recover," Sancho said, adding that "taking care of our health is not a monopoly of the government alone."