Philippines: Unions urge government to assist 1 million stranded construction workers

22 April 2020 09:36


The Nagkaisa Labour Coalition urged the Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE) to extend immediate support and assistance to about 1 million Filipino construction workers who were stranded and left behind by their employers in construction sites shut down since the start of the country’s COVID-19 lockdown on 15 March.  

In a letter submitted to DOLE on 20 April, Sonny Matula, Nagkaisa Chairperson, called on the government to provide humanitarian, financial assistance and other provisions for the workers to survive and arrange transport provisions to allow them to return home safely. 

This was echoed by a letter submitted by BWI to Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello on 21 April. BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson said that the BWI supports the unions’ demands to provide rapid interventions to the workers and determine practical means for construction workers, especially those with intermittent employment contracts and subjected to dubious employment contracts, to get immediate access to financial assistance.

BWI said that the construction workers’ lost wages now stand at PHP 16-19 million (USD 315,000- 354,000). It said that hundreds of thousands of them are underpaid and have no security of employment and social insurance. The global union also said that workers endure long working hours without overtime pay, lack personal protective equipment (PPE) and are exposed to very hazardous and dangerous workplaces. 

“We hope that the Philippine government will be able to urgently ease the miseries of the construction workers. Immediate assistance will surely change the perceived notion that construction workers’ welfare and interest and their families are an afterthought,” Yuson said. 

For its part, the Associated Labour Unions (ALU) reported that it is conducting policy advocacies and providing direct services to its members and workers in general affected by the pandemic.  TUCP Partylist Congressman and ALU National Vice President for Mindanao Raymond Mendoza has reportedly filed resolutions and headed congressional deliberations on the impact of COVID - 19 and measures being taken by the government to save lives, protect jobs and incomes, and ensure assistance to affected businesses and workers. 

ALU is also seeking hazard pay for health frontliners, on top of what they are receiving prior to the pandemic, transportation and sleeping quarters for those allowed and are reporting for work, quarantine leaves with pay, early release of 13th month pay to workers, cash subsidy to affected workers and vulnerable groups, safety protocols at work, moratorium on bills or loan and interest payments collection, among other things. 

Meanwhile, the Associated Philippine Seafarers Union (APSU) said that it will explore electronic transactions as an option for servicing its sea-based members and their families. It explained that currently, union members may avail of loans, withdraw their provident fund, be assisted in redeployment and availing of CBA benefits only when movements have become unrestricted and transportation and logistical support become accessible.