EcoWaste Coalition Seeks DILG’s Intervention to Allow LGUs to Give Hazard Pay to Garbage Collectors Out of Local Development Fund

An environmental health organization has urged the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to allow the use of development fund by local government units (LGUs) to give hazard pay for garbage collectors deployed during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

In a press statement coinciding with the observance of the World Day for Safety and Health at Work on April 28, the EcoWaste Coalition called upon DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año to authorize LGUs to use part of their 20 percent development fund for hazard pay to assigned waste workers during the COVID-19 lockdown.

DILG and the Department of Budget Management (DBM) had earlier issued Joint Memorandum Circular No. 1, series of 2020, allowing LGUs to use 20 percent of their development fund for COVID-19 response.  The directive does not specify the payment of hazard pay to garbage collectors as an allowable expense.

“We urge the DILG, in coordination with DBM, to further unlock the restrictions on the use of local development fund to give LGUs the flexibility to provide appropriate hazard pay to garbage collectors servicing their areas during the ECQ,” said Jove Benosa, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We request the DILG and the DBM to issue a follow-up Memorandum Circular to this effect,” he added.

The EcoWaste Coalition had previously appealed to the government to give hazard pay to garbage collectors — regardless of their employment status – due to the risks they face in the performance of essential waste management services under the extraordinary circumstances brought about by the coronavirus outbreak.

In reply to the EcoWaste Coalition’s letter of April 6, 2020, DBM Assistant Secretary Achilles Gerard Bravo on April 14 wrote that “institutional COS (contract of service), such as the garbage collectors from companies engaged by LGUs, are not considered as government personnel as they are continually regarded as employees of the contractor or service provider.”

“The private contractor or service providers may, at their own predilection, grant a benefit similar to the COVID-19 hazard pay to their workers deployed in government agencies and LGUs during the implementation of the quarantine measures,” he further said.

The provision of the requested hazard pay, explained the EcoWaste Coalition, is one way of expressing society’s recognition of the role being played by garbage collectors in waste management amid the heightened health and safety risks they face on a daily basis due to the COVID-19.

“Without their indispensable service, we may be faced with even more environmental and health hazards from uncollected waste,” the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out.

Coordinated by the International Labor Organization (ILO), this year’s World Day for Safety and Health at Work focuses on addressing the outbreak of infectious diseases at work such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Governments, employers, workers and their organizations face enormous challenges as they try to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and protect safety and health at work.  Beyond the immediate crisis, there are also concerns about resuming activity in a manner that sustains progress made in suppressing transmission,” the ILO said.