The 2019 novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease has been traced to have originated in Wuhan, China. The World Health Organization has renamed it COVID-19 or coronavirus disease 2019 to distinguish it from other coronaviruses and erase the stigma on China and the citizens of Wuhan.
Since its first outbreak in Wuhan, the virus has leapfrogged to more than 25 countries around the globe due to ease of travel and delayed reaction by authorities.
In the Philippines, the interference of the legislature by way of investigation at this time may be untimely and could hinder the efforts of line agencies tasked to prevent the spread of the virus, find a cure and diplomatically carry out selected travel restrictions. The day of reckoning and blaming could probably wait until the red alert is brought down and the spread of COVID-19 safely contained.
The prevention, cure and eradication of this pathogenic disease require unfettered coordination worldwide, especially when the virus is reported to be mutating and rapidly spreading.
All citizens and institutions, including organized labor, are expected to join in fighting this health crisis that threatens the whole of mankind. Peripheral issues such as wage adjustments, employment benefits, security of tenure, narrow partisanship and competing ideologies must take a backseat for the moment.
The future of business faces one of the greatest challenges for survival because of the seemingly exponential spread of this virus and its detrimental impact on world economy.
Supply chains are severely disrupted as industries try to sustain their operations in the absence of clear and official policies and guidelines at the outset on the appropriate mechanisms for containing the spread of COVID-19.
This situation has greatly affected the operation of our export and import industries from declining inventories of raw materials due to the slowdown in production. There have been cutbacks in manpower complement or cost from such enterprises as electronics, fresh fruits and some food manufacturing. Likewise, the number of overseas Filipino workers deployed to Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, Mainland China and even in other virus-free countries has been considerably reduced as travel lockdowns are arbitrarily implemented by many countries for reasons of health, politics and the bandwagon effect. Amid all these, Philippine retailers have reported a 30 to 50 percent drop in the number of customers and revenues in the weeks of the COVID-19 scare.
The bulletins issued by health experts and pharmaceuticals that it may take 18 months to produce a vaccine and cure only deepen the anxiety of employers. Any prolonged disruption in operations could cause long-term and permanent damage to enterprises. The lost opportunities and cancellation of orders due to missed delivery dates can cause business to shutter followed by massive layoffs.
Globalization is heralded as a force for good by almost all emerging economies as trade expands from access to a bigger global market. Although among developed economies there is a mixed view on the benefits of globalization, the prevailing sentiment is that it is a force for good. Then comes COVID-19 after a number of serial outbreaks of other pandemic diseases. This downside to globalization only highlights the cautious investment decisions of moving capital and people across countries.
Amid the serious threat of COVID-19 on the health and life of Filipinos, organized labor is pushing for special pay for those who are quarantined for 14 days. Employers and government are jointly addressing the safety, health, financial and economic impact of the forced quarantine on our citizens, and organized labor could help by letting employers perform their moral and legal obligations to their workers without the distractive call for special pay at this time.
Labor union’s appeal may earn brownie points from the gallery, but it will be counterproductive should regulators be swayed to step in and compel employers to heed such demand without regard to their financial capabilities. Further, it robs the employers the pleasure to respond to their workers’ needs out of compassion, not compulsion.