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Labor groups slam gov’t u-turn on face shield policy in workplaces

PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

LABOR GROUPS denounced the government’s reversal of policy on the optional use of face shields, with employers now having the authority to still require it for workers within their establishments.

“The policy should not give powers to employers to unjustly implement policies to the contrary. They should not be given the power to impose penalties on workers who will refuse to wear face shields,” Julius C. Cainglet, vice president of the Federation of Free Workers (FFW), said in a Viber message.

It “defeats the purpose” of relaxing the face shield requirement, he said.

The inter-agency task force handling the coronavirus response lifted on Nov. 15 the requirement on face shields for the general public in areas under Alert Levels 1, 2, and 3.

However, acting Presidential Spokesman Karlo Alexei B. Nograles clarified on Nov. 19 that the latest face shield policy “is without prejudice to employers still requiring their use for their employees or workers and customers in their respective premises.”

Mr. Cainglet said that most of their members believe that they are “more efficient” without face shields.

“A lot of our members, especially in the manufacturing sector, before were opposed to its use as it got in the way of their work (by) blocking their view as the face shield accumulates (moisture) or reflects light in odd angles,” he said.

Joshua T. Mata, secretary general of progressive labor group SENTRO, said the use of face shields is an “unnecessary added expense for workers because its usefulness is doubtful.”

A study from the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases said that face shields do not offer any additional protection from the coronavirus among the general public.

“Malacanang should no longer involve itself with (these) trivial matters (and) should instead use its time and energy to solve pressing problems in our society that it helped worsen,” Mr. Mata said in a Viber message.

He suggested that the government should instead focus on policies for providing safe and adequate public transportation, paid quarantine leaves, and guaranteed income should workers lose their jobs.

Mr. Cainglet also said that workers should be represented in safety and health committees at the workplace and during inspections by the Labor department to ensure that minimum health standards are met.

“It’s more important for workers to be able to get back to work and earn a decent income,” he said. — Russell Louis C. Ku

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