MAY 1, 2020 must be a historic, if gloomy, day for all the workingmen of the world, Filipinos included.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) reported that full or partial lockdown measures are now affecting almost 2.7 billion workers, representing around 81 percent of the world’s workforce.
In the Philippines, more than 2 million local workers have lost their jobs, on top of 250,000 land and sea-based Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) all over the world displaced by the novel Coronavirus that causes the disease called COVID-19, and the economic meltdown that has just begun.
The workforce of the globe’s biggest economy, the Unites States, took a hard beating with more than 30 million out of work in factories, offices, malls, theaters, schools, farms, restaurants, hotels and small shops — all lining up in food banks and applying for unemployment benefits.
The situation in India, South America and Europe are no less distressing. Migrant workers in Mumbai are walking in droves for hours or days to reach their hometowns because there’s no work in the cities and no transportation is available. Employees in several European countries had been idled by the dreaded pandemic, save for a few who work in hospitals, mortuaries, funeral parlors, crematories and cemeteries.
The ILO described this bleak situation of the workers all across the globe as “the most severe crisis since the Second World War.” It said sharp and unforeseen reductions in economic activity are causing a dramatic decline in employment, both in terms of number of jobs and aggregate hours of work.
In the Philippines, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said of the more than two million workers temporarily out of work, the DOLE was able to provide “a one-time cash assistance of P5,000 to almost 700,000 of them.” Also, OFWs received $200 each, with the labor department able to spend only P1.5 billion for them.
With strict rules on social distancing, mass gatherings, enhanced community quarantine and other new concepts that prohibit movement, the already emaciated workers cannot hope to march in street protests this May Day of 2020.
They can, however, maintain their vigilance so that the government may not abuse the awesome emergency powers that it wields over the population at this time.