By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – At first glance, the proposed four-day work week for workers in public and private sectors may seem beneficial but a closer look proves otherwise.
According to the Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development www.IOHSAD.org, implementing a four-day work week with a minimum of ten hours per day will entail “greater occupational health risks, increasing workers level of stress and fatigue and creating a maelstrom of health issues.”
Rep. Winston Castelo of Quezon City recently filed House Bill 05237 or the Act Mandating Four-Day Work Week in Public and Private Sectors, Requiring Thereby Ten Hours of Work Daily and For Other Purposes.
“If the bill becomes law, we are only to expect a more stressed and fatigued workforce,” Noel Colina, IOHSAD executive director, said. “A minimum of 10 hours per day of work will mean greater fatigue and stress for workers. If approved, this legal minimum can be extended and workers can be mandated to do a two-hour overtime, raising the daily work hour to 12 or even more, based on the exemptions provided in Section 3 of the bill.”
The group rebutted Castelo’s claim that the proposal will give workers more time for themselves and their families. The IOHSAD said in many workplaces, including export processing zones, 48 hours/week is the minimum allowed by the Labor Code. “Article 83 of the Labor Code allows the 48 hours/week for workplaces. If the bill becomes law, workers will have to toil 12 hours/day just to meet the 48 hour quota. Add another two hours for commuting and a worker is left with only 10 hours to rest and spend time with the family and this is repeated over the years,” Colina said.
The non-government organization said work-related stress is caused by prolonged work hours and too much work load. IOHSAD said indecision is one of the symptoms of stress, citing the recent cases of road incidents involving overworked bus drivers.
“Other symptoms are anxiety, depression, altered appetite, headache, backache, skin rashes and difficulty sleeping. Prolonged stress can lead to other complications like hypertension, coronary heart disease, ulcers and even cancer,” Colina said.
“The objective of reducing expenses for the workers is good but the solution proposed by Rep. Castelo is inappropriate, as the repercussion of the proposal will only increase health care expenses and can stack up the cases of work-related accidents and diseases.” stated Colina.
Beneficial to employers
In a statement, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) said under present circumstances, a four-day work week will not help Filipino workers achieve a balance between work and life. “The fact that many companies, especially in so-called special economic zones, are implementing this scheme on their own shows that workers will lose more than gain from this,” Elmer Labog, KMU chairman, said.
In a report, Castelo said the government and private sector can save at least P20 billion ($471 million) a week if the proposal is implemented.. There are over 20 million private sector employees and 1.5 million government employees, Castelo said. Castelo said employers can save on production and maintenance costs.
KMU said a four-day work week could only mean less income for workers under the present employment situation in the country. “A four-hour workday will only bring about a loss of income for many of our workers who are not paid when they do not report for work,” Labog said. KMU said the bill would legitimize similar schemes that are already in place and would do anything to stop employers from forcing employees to work on weekends, a phenomenon which, Labog said, is already widespread at present.
The group also criticized the Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines’ (ECOP) opposition to the bill, saying the employers’ group is opposing the measure for the wrong reasons in alluding to the so-called “fiesta and siesta mentality” of Filipinos. “It is not the Filipino workers who are enjoying fiesta and siesta under the current system; it is the capitalists, especially the big and foreign ones. That Filipino workers are not working hard enough is a big lie being used by capitalists to prolong working hours and press down workers’ wages,” Labog said. “ECOP is making a big fuss out of paid holidays when most capitalists are not even giving that to their employees. Workers are working hard – too hard, in fact – compared with the pitiful compensation that they are receiving from the country’s greedy capitalists,” he added.
Increase pay, implement 8-hour work
KMU said what Filipino workers want is the strict observation of the eight-hour work day and a significant wage increase as an immediate relief for workers’ families who have been suffering from low wages and high prices.“We want the eight-hour work day strictly enforced. We also want a significant wage increase to be legislated, for we want immediate relief from rising prices and low wages – a relief that comes from the value that we create as toiling masses,” he added.