DOLE assures aid for OFWs fired from jobs due to coronavirus outbreak

Robie de Guzman   •   March 4, 2020   •   1019

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Wednesday assured that overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) who might get terminated from work or would want to return home due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak would get assistance from the government.

In a press briefing, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said returning overseas workers will each receive P20,000 financial assistance and P20,000 livelihood assistance packages. Their children will also receive scholarships from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

OWWA administrator Hans Leo Cacdac earlier reported that 40 Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong were displaced by the virus outbreak, 35 of which were initiated by the employers, while 16 were due to the employers’ relocation.

The rest were of the terminations were due to issues regarding taking rest days.

Bello said they are now coordinating with the Department of Budget and Management for the P2-billion budget they are seeking to fund financial and livelihood assistance packages for returning OFWs.

He added that a crisis committee has been created to address further employment issues that may arise due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Measures, including the proposed adoption among local employers of flexible work arrangements for workers, have also been prepared to mitigate the effects of possible surge of COVID-19 cases in the country.

Flexible work arrangements, which are temporary in nature, refer to alternative arrangements or schedules other than the traditional or standard work hours, workdays, and workweek.

DOLE said the adoption of flexible work arrangements is a better alternative than the outright termination of the services of the employees or the total closure of the establishment.

The department also said it has tasked all its labor officials, both in the regional offices and those in Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLO), to be “on alert-footing to allow a quick reporting system on worker displacements and pave the way for countermeasures.” – RRD (with details from Correspondent Asher Cadapan Jr.)

DOLE forms task force to speed up OFW processing, return to homes

Robie de Guzman   •   May 28, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) announced that it has formed task force groups to expedite the return of quarantined overseas Filipino workers (OFW) to their respective homes.

In a statement issued Wednesday, DOLE said the task groups, dubbed as “balik-probinsiya” and “balik-abroad,” will help fast track the movement of OFWs from various quarantine facilities to their respective home destinations, as well as facilitate the speedy processing of outbound workers.

The move follows President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to immediately send home all OFWs who tested negative for COVID-19 conducted by the Philippine Coast Guard and the Red Cross.

DOLE said about 24,000 OFWs have been kept in government-designated quarantine facilities since their return to the country. Most workers had complained of the slow release of their results and clearances after weeks and even months of quarantine and tests.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, however, said the government did not intend to inconvenience the returning OFWs with their prolonged quarantine and delayed test results.

“DOLE and OWWA simply had no control over the testing and issuance of clearances,” he said.

Bello said he had ordered the designation of additional personnel from its regional and attached agencies to beef up the manpower requirement of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration in ensuring the smooth land and air transport, and monitoring of OFWs from various quarantine facilities to their respective home destinations.

In an administrative order, Bello also formed a separate task group to ease the processing of outbound land and sea-based workers whose country of destination has lifted the restrictions on the employment of foreign workers.

“We are doing this so as we don’t lose the jobs for our OFWs, while at the same time we help facilitate the quick homecoming and be of assistance to our returning workers,” the labor chief said.

Aside from facilitating the processing of inbound and outbound OFWs, the ‘hatid-probinsya’ and ‘balik-abroad’ task groups will serve as monitoring offices for onsite OFWs and those seeking repatriation, DOLE said.

DOLE eyes enhanced TUPAD program

Aileen Cerrudo   •   May 28, 2020

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is eyeing to extend the work period of its Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Displaced/Disadvantaged Workers (TUPAD).

DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III wants to extend the working period under the TUPAD program from 10 days to three to six months.

Bello also said that if the pandemic continues in the next months, it might increase the number of affected workers. He said that the number of affected workers due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has already reached 2.7 million.

Kung magtatagal pa ito, ay maapektuhan siguro between 5 to 10 million ng ating workers (If [the pandemic] continues further, it might affect 5 to 10 million workers), he said.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department formed a task group that will track the movement of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) from various quarantine facilities.

DOLE reports 24,000 OFWs have stayed in quarantine facilities after returning to the country.

“We are doing this so we don’t lose the jobs for our OFWs, while at the same time we help facilitate the quick homecoming and be of assistance to our returning workers,” Bello said. (with reports from Vincent Arboleda)

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DOLE, employers reminded to get workers’ consent on any wage adjustment

Robie de Guzman   •   May 27, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – A lawmaker on Wednesday called on the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to keep a close watch on employers who have implemented salary adjustment and resorted to scaling down company benefits due to the economic fallout caused by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

In a statement, Senator Joel Villanueva reminded DOLE to protect the rights of workers and to ensure that employers are implementing wage and benefit adjustments with the full consent and awareness of workers.

“DOLE must ensure that any reduction in wages that would be implemented by employers should be according to the guidelines it issued earlier this month,” Villanueva said in a statement.

“More importantly, both employers and workers must agree to the terms together, and the latter should not be forced or coerced to decide,” he added.

Villanueva, who chairs the Senate labor committee, noted that under the non-diminution principle in the Labor Code employers are prohibited from making cuts on a worker’s basic pay.

DOLE, in its labor advisory issued last week, said that employers may opt to slash allowances or other benefits stated in employment contracts or collective bargaining agreements for so long as employees are informed beforehand and voluntarily agree to the move.

The advisory also stated that all agreements, which must be in writing, should not have a duration exceeding six months.

“At this critical time, we appeal to both employers and workers to look out for each other. The only way we could overcome the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic is to align the interests of each other. Workers’ welfare and dignity would always translate to the success of enterprises,” Villanueva said.

DOLE also urged employers earlier to adopt work-from-home arrangements and alternative work schemes to preserve the jobs of workers.

These arrangements must be reported to DOLE for documentation and proper monitoring.

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