“We condemn the continuing lack of protective equipment, assurance of free testing and treatment among all public sector employees.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – The largest federation government employees unions is pushing for free mass testing and treatment for government employees infected by COVID-19.
According to the Civil Service Commission’s (CSC) report, at least 153 government agencies nationwide are halting their operations amid the increasing cases of COVID-19 among employees. Of this number, 108 are in Metro Manila.
There are already 7,472 employees who tested positive for the virus and about 10,000 more are suspected of being infected.
In their online press conference on Aug. 6, Alan Balaba, national president of the Social Welfare Employees’ Association of the Philippines, said that most of those who are infected were involved in the distribution of social amelioration program.
Balaba lamented that there are no clear protocols on how the DSWD management will assist the infected employees.
“Kanya-kanyang diskarte,” (They’re on their own) he said, as testing and treatment are shouldered by the employees. Balaba said government must provide treatment for all infected employees.
The union, he said, also helps employees who need to undergo testing or isolation. They also distributed hygiene kits and other supplements.
The Confederation for Unity, Recognition, and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE) said that the increasing COVID-19 cases among their rank is detrimental to the delivery of public service especially in this pressing time.
COURAGE National President Santiago Dasmariñas, Jr. said that many of the cases are in agencies that have a vital role in the COVID-19 response, particularly the DSWD and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).
He said that there are already 11 confirmed cases in the DSWD National Office and 18 other cases in DSWD-NCR.
“We are fearing that these numbers are actually growing as we speak especially in the regional offices. Social workers and MMDA laborers are the most at risk among our ranks to contract COVID-19,” Dasmariñas said.
“We condemn the continuing lack of protective equipment, assurance of free testing and treatment among all public sector employees. The frontliners are already bleeding, inaction and ineptitude will cost us dearly as a nation” Santiago added.
Threat of losing jobs
Balaba added that the employees are not only worried of contracting the virus but also of the possibility of losing their jobs amid the pandemic.
Balaba is referring to the Department of Budget and Management National Budget Circular 580 (DBM-NBC 580) or the Adoption of Economy Measures in Government Due to the Emergency Health Situation issued last April.
The circular was brought about by RA 11469 or the Bayanihan Act of 2020 which gave President Duterte the emergency powers to realign and raise funds for the government’s COVID-19 response.
Roxanne Fernandez, spokesperson of the Kawaning Kontraktwal Laban sa Kontraktwalisyon (KALAKON), said workers’ jobs, needs and benefits, especially that of the job orders and contractual workers, are usually the first to be sacrificed in cost-cutting measures like this.
Fernandez said that circular “states that to effect the 10% discontinuance, economy measures shall be implemented which includes primarily the discontinuance of hiring of job orders, except those considered as frontliners during this state of public health emergency.”
She said the pandemic and the DBM Circular is a big blow to the job orders and contractual employees.
Meanwhile, Dasmariñas reiterated COURAGE’s demands since March 2020: alternative and safer working arrangements such as work-from-home schemes, and free transportation services for the skeletal workforce in agencies.
Balaba said that many of the government employees also suffer from the lack of public transportation especially now that Mega Manila is reverted back to modified enhanced community quarantine. He said that while there are shuttles, these are not enough to accommodate all the workers.