DOLE call for paid quarantine leave not enough, workers say

Artemio Dumlao - Philstar.com
DOLE call for paid quarantine leave not enough, workers say
In this March 2020 file photo, a ManilaMed staff wears a surgical face mask along the LRT-MRT connecting bridge.
Philstar.com / Deejae Dumlao, file

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — A labor department advisory on paid isolation and quarantine leave was "lackadaisically crafted and unacceptable," the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines said, calling it insensitive to workers and employers.

TUCP said that the Department of Labor and Employment "opted to just 'go through the motions', never bothering to come up with incentives or tax credits for employers for them to accord the benefits of paid isolation and quarantine leave to their workers."

The group said that it had proposed that DOLE explore options with the Department of Trade and Industry, Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Social Security System "but they never bothered to look into this. "

The labor advisory only urges employers to provide paid leaves for workers required to isolate or go on quarantine, which, TUCP said, "provides only an illusory safety net for thousands of workers now isolating or going into quarantine."

TUCP said it had proposed to make paid isolation and quarantine leave mandatory so these would not be deducted from leave credits like vacation and sick leaves that workers are entitled to. It said incentives like a tax credit scheme could have helped protect workers who had already used up their leaves because of the coronavirus.

"Should the  worker and his or her entire family now be made to starve or should their income be placed on hold for the duration of the quarantine?" TUCP said.

DOLE, rather than making sure that exposed workers gets a lifeline during these difficult times, seems to have walked away from its responsibility, it also said.

KMU: Government puts responsibility on employers

In a separate statement, labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno welcomed the labor advisory as good news after two years of the pandemic.

It noted, however, that while the call for paid isolation and quarantine leave is a step forward for workers' welfare, it puts the responsibility of finding a way to implement the leaves on employers.

"Paid Isolation at Quarantine Leave should be the government's responsibility to workers who are our economic frontliners," KMU said in Filipino, pointing out that many small businesses have had to close down or are in dire financial straits because of the economic effects of the pandemic.

"It would be right for government to support them to make sure they can give their employees the correct pay and benefits," the group also said. "[President Rodrigo] Duterte should set aside funds for the welfare of workers."

'Paid pandemic leave should be institutionalized'

KMU chairperson Elmer Labog, a candidate for senator, said that "moving forward, government should also ensure assistance to the millions of unemployed and those whose livelihoods were affected because of the pandemic by providing unemployment benefits, sufficient aid, livelihood assistance, among others."

Labog stressed that the Philippines will not be able to recover from the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic without its workers.

"It's about time for government to recognize and compensate workers for all their sacrifices and contributions, especially in this time of a pandemic," he said, as he called for a law that would institutionalize paid pandemic leave.

"This policy has to be institutionalized. I challenge Duterte to certify as urgent and immediately sign the Paid Pandemic Leave bill. I also challenge my fellow candidates to echo the demand of workers and small business owners to pass this law."




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