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Editorial | Workers and the pandemic

Today might become a history of this generation when protest and other mass actions are absent during the commemoration of International Labor Day in this country, although this might not be so because there are groups that would brave the danger of getting infected with a dreaded virus or getting arrested just so they could raise their fists.

If mass actions are missing from the streets today, the irony is that this very day also marks the importance of putting front and center the issues on workers welfare as they are, not the large employers, the ones who are facing the biggest burden amid this period of pandemic.

For one, during this period of uncertainty, workers who earn the lowest as well as those members of the lowest rung of the informal sector are the ones facing the biggest hardship in bringing food to their dining places.

Many of them have been relying on government subsidies, others have been earning meager incomes making them not qualified to ask government for assistance, while others, because of some other factors, do not earn and fail to get help from government functionaries that even sleeping on empty stomachs is not unusual.

This situation should push the government to establish steps necessary not only to protect workers in general, but most importantly those who can hardly find a kilogram of rice after a day’s work.

But one issue that must be addressed is how to ensure that these individuals have healthcare benefits especially because they are the ones who are always exposed to the danger of being infected or the danger of facing accidents. Sometimes, companies do not even spend for their basic protective gear even when their jobs call for these.

Lastly, government, when it decides to pump-prime the economy, should first consider spending for its infrastructure and other projects rather than providing interventions for private entities.

In this way, government can employ as well as pay better wages to those employees who have been out of work, rather than allow them to return to their old jobs where companies might scrimp on wages on the pretext that the action is necessary to protect their jobs and the existence of their employers.

The government must remember that workers, particularly those who are in the lowest level of society, are among those who are responsible in pushing the wheels of the economy so that it could grind slowly.

Let them not starve nor get sick, or the country will face a threat more fearsome than what this pandemic has brought.

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