The usually-moderate Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) confirmed President Rodrigo Duterte's observation that the number of able construction workers in the country is dwindling as it sought to call attention to their reportedly shoddy working conditions.
Low pay, meager benefits, unsafe and unhealthy working conditions as well as poor access to certification are some of the reasons why the country is experiencing a shortage of Filipino construction workers, TUCP's leadership said in a statement on Friday.
President Duterte earlier this week said there is delay in government’s PHP8 trillion Build, Build, Build infrastructure program due to a shortage of construction workers, the labor group said.
“We are currently experiencing “skill and brain drain” phenomenon because of this bad treatment of our construction workers. The nation is losing fast its vast and excellent reserves of construction manpower to higher pay and attractive benefits offered by companies abroad,” TUCP President Raymond Mendoza said.
Based on government statistics, the TUCP estimates there are 3 million construction workers nationwide but only around one million of them are certified.
Mendoza added that "they (construction workers) prefer to work abroad after a few months of training and actual field experience here because they are dignified there, they are given higher salary and benefits there, and are given free decent housing and paid vacation.”
The TUCP has proposed to raise the minimum wage of construction workers from the current minimum of P500 a day to a minimum P800 a day, improve their benefits, and raise their working and resting living standards.
“Construction workers even purchase their own personal protective equipment used in working, buy their own drinking water, pay for their meals during work break to replenish strength, and given dirty sleeping quarters during the whole duration of the construction project,” Mendoza added.
Project owners and contractors also try to improve their profits by cutting costs on safety equipment and protocols causing workplace accidents, diseases and even fatalities, he said.
“There seems to be no pride and no dignity being a construction worker nowadays. But President Duterte’s Build, Build, Build program is an opportunity to address that and raise the dignity of our construction working people through a functioning and sustained government policy,” Mendoza added.