The unions in the Philippines have won better social protections for workers amidst increasingly repressive conditions and threats during the lockdown, while the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow.
As a result of pressure from the unions, the government agreed to allow laid-off formal and informal workers access to a meagre PHP 5,000 (US$100) one-time unemployment benefits for the entire 30-day lockdown period, 100% hospitalization and medicine benefits for anyone with possible symptoms.
“We’re pleased to see our efforts have resulted in increased funding for workers during the lockdown. Our focus now is to ensure these funds reach vulnerable workers and families through an underprepared Government infrastructure, while keeping a watchful on serious attempt to invoke a national emergency, which would have enabled widespread violations of worker and human rights”, said Santiago Nolla, National Union of Building and Construction Workers (NUBCW).
“Just this morning we have seen Duterte encouraging security forces to shoot those who violate lockdown rules, and we have no doubt that this is being seen as an opportunity to expand state powers to violate worker and human rights”, Nolla continued.
“Workers across the Philippines are already facing huge financial hardship, and the prospect of growing unemployment is very real for millions of workers.”
“At the same time, workers have found that the twin health and economic crises caused by the coronavirus is an additional reason to have trade union representation."
“We are talking to workers that are scared about layoffs and insecurity about the importance of solidarity and collective action”, said Nolla. “As a result, we’ve been able to form two new unions of around 120 members and recruited another twenty five workers. This is just the beginning for us.”