LEARN Statement for International Workers’ Memorial Day 2022

LEARN joins the global labor movement in commemorating the International Workers’ Memorial Day today, April 28. Organized globally since 1996, its purpose is to honor the memory of victims of occupational accidents and diseases by organizing mobilizations and awareness campaigns on this date.

Just as the official count of Filipinos who died from COVID-19 passed the 60,000 mark, many of whom were working people, the call to understand more deeply the occupational health aspect of any work or livelihood, has never been more urgent.

Even before the pandemic, workers all over the world have already been putting their lives on the line to perform and deliver essential services. According to joint estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), 1.9 million people died from work-related diseases and injuries each year.

When the deadly virus hit the Philippines in early 2020, workers from across industries had to continue doing their jobs in poor working conditions. Official counts from the Department of Health (DOH) confirmed that at least 104 health workers died while on the frontlines in the battle against COVID.

The pandemic exposed not only the ongoing workplace safety crisis but also the dismal state of economic security and social protection mechanisms for those in the labor force.

Two years since the March 2020 shutdown that decimated the labor market, the Philippine government still has not figured out how to bring back the employment situation to pre-pandemic levels. Unemployment rate for February 2022 was at 6.4 percent, still a far-cry from the 5.3 percent recorded in January 2020.  

Last year, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) declared COVID-19 as a compensable work-related disease. However, the granting of paid isolation and quarantine leave benefits to workers remains optional.

LEARN urges the Philippine government to take occupational safety and health standards more seriously in fighting COVID. 

On the International Workers’ Memorial Day 2022, LEARN calls on:

  • The ILO to deliver on its promise during its Centenary Conference in 2019 to make occupational safety and health a fundamental right at work
  • The Philippine government to strengthen the implementation of Republic Act 11058 (Occupational Safety and Health Standards Law) and to ratify the International Labour Organization’s Occupational Safety and Health Convention (C155)
  • The next administration to create programs and policies for social and economic recovery that prioritizes the safety and welfare of workers and working families including support for workplace unionization campaigns and collective bargaining, the implementation of a wealth tax, and ramped-up vaccination efforts