Schools, restaurants, and malls across the country shut their doors to the public last March as authorities introduced nationwide quarantine measures in a bid to control the COVID-19 pandemic. By April 12, a month into the quarantine, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) reported one million workers were already put out of work amid the halting of various industries, with DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III even appealing to businesses to continue paying their workers out of compassion.
DLSU was not spared. Vice President for Lasallian Mission (VPLM) Fritzie de Vera reveals that at least 500 employees—consisting of the University’s External Service Personnel (ESP) and construction workers—have been similarly affected by the work stoppage. Unlike regular personnel, workers like the ESP serve under a “no work, no pay” arrangement. These include the University’s security guards, maintenance personnel, and Perico’s, La Casita, and Animo Business Innovation Zone staff. With work out of the question, these personnel are caught in a predicament.
To help those with such arrangements, the Lasallians Compassionate Action and Relief (CARE) program was initiated by the Office of the VPLM. Its aim: to create a “culture of care” in the University. “The first group we would like to help are the workers who are badly affected,” de Vera reiterates. The program gathers donations from within and beyond the Lasallian community to provide cash assistance to the workers under the Lasallians CARE initiative.
In time of need
In addition to the ESP, the program’s beneficiaries also include the construction workers involved in renovation projects around the campuses. Due to quarantine measures, their projects were suspended indefinitely.
More than 200 construction workers and 200 concessionaire staff coming from the Manila, Laguna, Rufino, and Makati campuses have thus been left jobless, de Vera discloses. In response, the University launched the Lasallians CARE initiative, with the main objective of providing at least P3,000 to each of the displaced workers while the quarantine is still in place.
The VPLM explains that out of the P3,000 in cash aid, P2,000 will come from the University’s own fund, while P1,000 will be sourced from donations received from the Lasallians CARE project.
Unlike concessionaire workers, ESP like the University’s security personnel are paid a fixed salary. “Because of that, the University made an arrangement to make sure [they] will have their one month salary for the period of the quarantine,” de Vera cites. Following the extension of quarantine measures, the period covered has now also been extended indefinitely.
Assurance of delivery
As early as April 20, the project already soared past the P755,000 mark—enough to provide P3,000 to each of DLSU’s targeted 500 employees under the Lasallians CARE initiative, while still having some left to cover for additional financial assistance following the quarantine’s extension.
According to de Vera, the distribution of financial compensation and aid, though, must be coursed through partner agencies, who are then responsible for disbursing the funds individually to their respective employees.
The guarantee of delivery remains “a difficult question to answer”, the VPLM admits, but she assures that University offices have already urged agencies to distribute the cash assistance to their workers as soon as possible.
One such office is the University’s Human Resources Development and Management Office, who has been conducting regular follow-ups with the agencies through calls and emails. However, de Vera still laments, “Kung hindi pa rin ‘yung agency magpasweldo, that’s also a difficulty.”
(If the agency itself does not forward the aid to their employees, that’s also a difficulty.)
Culture of care
Aside from financial aid, the University also tries to lend a hand to ESP who volunteer to continue working during campus closure. For at least 50 guards in the Manila campus, their work corresponds to a full attendance for each day, counting toward their total remuneration, which is calculated based on their working hours.
Volunteer guards and maintenance crew who live far from the vicinity of Taft Ave. are also given the option to stay inside the campus. Though de Vera notes that the “the priority is for the frontliners and homeless, kasi we only have limited [space],” referring to the Philippine General Hospital health workers and homeless families accommodated under the De La Salle Philippines’ Kada-Uno initiative. Despite such limitations, de Vera still commends the employees for volunteering and assures that the University continues to pursue arrangements and projects to offer help during this crisis. “Lasallians CARE is really advocating the culture of care within the community,” she remarks.