‘Inaccessible,’ ‘exclusionary’ DOLE cash assistance criticized

Four in ten of the almost 2,000 respondents on their online survey claimed they haven’t received any assistance yet from DOLE due to inefficiencies in its process, while 23 percent claimed their applications were not processed by their respective employers.

By MARLO MADRIGAL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — Some workers have raised their concerns about the cash assistance program of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for being “inaccessible and exclusionary to all workers” despite being “low” compared to the expected impact of the Luzon-wide lockdown on laborers’ wages.

On March 17, DOLE introduced the COVID-19 (new coronavirus disease 2019) Adjustment Measure Program (CAMP), a relief program providing a one-time P5,000 cash assistance to workers affected by the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine to contain the spread of the disease pandemic.

The department defined “affected workers” as only those who are employed by private employers.

“Informal workers and unemployed Filipinos are complaining and looking for their place in the said assistance program,” Defend Job Philippines noted in its latest report.

DOLE earlier enjoined private employers to enforce a temporary flexible work arrangement. In a supplemental advisory on March 16, it said that this scheme refers to “telecommuting, work from home, reduction of workdays or hours, rotation of workers and forced leaves.”

According to economic think-tank Ibon Foundation, there are around 14.4 million non-regular workers and informal laborers, or three out of five employed persons, in Luzon, who are at risk of lost wages and earnings due to the lockdown.

The imposed quarantine period, it also found, could potentially displace some 11 million workers and informal earners, who are not part of industries which the government allowed to operate during this time, especially those in the food retail and business process outsourcing sectors.

Defend Jobs Philippines launched its COVID-19 Labor Monitor to track the situation of the country’s workforce as they bear the brunt of the total lockdown.

Two weeks into the lockdown, it has received over 1,000 calls, mostly coming from the National Capital Region, and nearly 2,000 online survey responses, as well as 1,768 online signatures via Change.org and counting, as of March 25.

DOH hotline cannot be reached; CAMP inefficiencies

The report noted the complaints of private employees on the inaccessibility of the DOLE hotline 1349.

Of the 1,032 calls which the labor rights group received, 85 percent of the callers said they found it difficult to reach the department for assistance and support concerning its cash program.

The group also found that employees complained their employers who are not processing their application to CAMP and some who are even using the P5,000 cash assistance as payment for their absences.

Meanwhile, some employers were wary of the bureaucratic processes and the vagueness of the program’s implementation.

Based on their data, four in ten of the almost 2,000 respondents on their online survey claimed they haven’t received any assistance yet from DOLE due to inefficiencies in its process, while 23 percent claimed their applications were not processed by their respective employers.

Moreover, it highlighted among complaints the “slow releasing process” and “application denial clause.”

Some DOLE regional offices allegedly closed the applications for the aid program due to lack of funds, the group revealed.

Still, Defend Jobs listed some “unfair” labor issues which the callers have also raised:

  • non-payment of wages and benefits;
  • terminations due to absences due to fear for their health;
  • non-payment or low rate of hazard pays for medical frontliners and other workers;
  • non-compliance of occupational safety and health protocols;
  • forcing employees to go to work;
  • imposition of forced leaves and;
  • non-issuance of personal protective equipment, among others.

“Such cases pose fear and anxiety to their workers of permanently losing their jobs once the crisis subsides,” the group exclaimed.

Suspend ‘no work, no pay’ policy, reform CAMP

The labor group recommended the suspension of the “no work, no pay” policy implemented among private establishments, as well as the reform in the cash assistance program to make it “inclusive and non-discriminatory.”

“The national government must ensure that it will help compensate the wages of workers in both private and public sector,” it said.

“Reform CAMP by making its P5,000 cash assistance program inclusive and non-discriminatory to all informal and formal workers and by making it easily accessible for all and by cutting all bureaucratic processes,” it added.

Defend Jobs also urged the Labor department to “allot higher fund allocation for this program in order to cater all of its supposed beneficiaries.” “We also demand transparency as to how the initial funding for the program was spent and utilized,” the group added.

Further, the group said it would be sending a list of firms who have refused to file their employees’ applications for CAMP.

“We urge the public to be vigilant and active in expressing your sentiments, complaints and disgust against any form of injustices and neglect being implemented by your employers and from the government itself,” it exclaimed. ()

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