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Duterte, Robredo honor pandemic frontliners on Labor Day

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The country’s top officials honored Filipino workers on Labor Day for their services amid the pandemic, with President Rodrigo Duterte reaffirming the administration’s commitment to improve work conditions.

Duterte, in a message on Saturday, vowed that his administration would work “vigorously” to protect and upheld the rights of Filipino workers.

“To all Filipino workers here and abroad, let me assure you that this administration will endeavor to work as vigorously as you have in creating an environment where security of tenure, statutory labor standards and workers’ rights are not only upheld and protected, but also cherished as the foundations of a strong and thriving workforce,” the President said.

He also conveyed his gratitude to workers in the health sector and other essential services who have “tirelessly toiled” to ensure that the country continues to function as the government grapples with the health crisis.

“On behalf of a grateful nation, I express my deepest gratitude to our hardworking healthcare workers and essential frontliners for their unwavering commitment in ensuring the delivery of goods and services that continue to sustain our communities and industries during these difficult times,” Duterte said.

“Together, let us rebuild a stronger and more resilient society that we can proudly leave behind to succeeding generations of Filipinos,” he added.

Vice President Leni Robredo, meanwhile, recognized the contributions of Filipino workers throughout history, saying the labor force has shown itself to be the “strength of the economy” amid the pandemic.

Robredo also said Labor Day should not be spent alone in acknowledging the sacrifices of workers, adding that taking “concrete action” was needed to address issues hounding the workforce.

“I hope this day will become not just a day of praises and thanks, but also of concrete actions to issues that our workers have been experiencing for a long time,” she said in a separate statement.

Robredo, in particular, cited the issue of contractualization, which has long been a subject of debate between employers and workers.

She underscored that measures should be in place to ensure that workers would be protected from abuse, especially amid the pandemic.

Ending contractualization was one of Duterte’s key promises during the 2016 presidential campaign.

In July 2019, he vetoed the security of tenure bill, a day before the much anticipated measure would have lapsed into law.

Duterte said in his veto message that the proposed measure “unduly broadens the scope and definition of prohibited labor-only contracting, effectively proscribing forms of contractualization that are not particularly unfavorable to the employees involved.”

Labor groups and workers’ unions staged various protests in Metro Manila and other provinces to mark the occasion.

They called for additional government aid to businesses to prevent more layoffs, cash aid for displaced workers, and immediate vaccination of economic frontliners.

Protesters have assured the government that they would strictly implement health protocols against coronavirus, adding that the organizers designated marshals to ensure compliance.

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