The Department of Labor on Employment (DOLE) is beefing up its campaign against business establishments that do not observe health protocols against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

DOLE Undersecretary Benjo Santos M. Benavidez on Friday said the agency will strictly impose penalties on erring companies, citing Republic Act (RA) No. 11058 or the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Act which was implemented in 2018. 

“We will not hesitate in imposing penalties if they insist on not following health protocols,” he said in Filipino during a televised press briefing.

RA No. 11058 requires private sector employers to inform workers about all types of hazards in workplaces. The law also mandates them to provide their workers with the necessary personal protective equipment, including face masks and protective shields. 

According to the Interim Guidelines on Workplace Prevention and Control of COVID-19 which was issued by Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez and Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III in mid-2020, workers and employers are required to follow precautionary measures for the containment of the lethal virus, including the use of face masks, physical distancing of at least one meter, recording of body temperature, disinfection and sanitation of routine practices, among others. 

Mr. Benavidez said only 77% of the 72,000 establishments inspected last year were found compliant with occupational health and safety standards, which means that about 23% are “non-compliant.”

He, however, said that the compliance rate later increased to 92% after DOLE extended “technical assistance and advice” to various enterprises, which was mostly done online. 

Meanwhile, a labor group on Friday launched a campaign which aims to monitor the employment status in the country amid the prolonged pandemic. 

Defend Job Philippines said the campaign, dubbed as “Trabahotline,” empowers local and foreign-based Filipino workers to report issues of termination, retrenchment, floating status and other work-related concerns amid the pandemic. 

“The alarming state of jobs, livelihood, security of tenure, unemployment and other labor-related issues in the country have worsened due to the absence of concrete and comprehensive employment program and massive jobs creation scheme of the government for Filipino workers here and abroad,” Christian Lloyd Magsoy, the group’s spokesperson, said in a statement. 

The group assured complainants that their identity and their issues will be kept strictly confidential in order to protect their privacy. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza