BAGUIO CITY – The City Council approved on first reading the Baguio City Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency workers Job Protection ordinance.
The ordinance authored by Councilor Leandro B. Yangot, Jr. stated that it is a declared policy of the local government to ensure the timely, effective and coordinated response and recovery from a disaster or emergency making use of all available resources from the government, non-government organizations, private sectors, volunteer groups and other response operations key actors.
Under the provisions of the ordinance, no employee may be terminated or demoted with respect to the terms and conditions of employment due to the employee’s absence or tardiness for the purpose of serving as a volunteer firefighter or providing voluntary emergency medical services as part of a response to a disaster.
The ordinance stipulated that the prohibition shall apply to an employee serving as a volunteer firefighter or providing volunteer emergency medical services if such employee is employed to respond to an emergency or disaster following a pre-existing mutual aid agreement with his or her employee or has been deployed by the City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (CDRRMC) or the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) to respond to such emergency or disaster.
Yangot claimed that an employer may require his or her employee to furnish him a written verification from the officer-in-charge of the CDRRMC or BFP supervising the emergency response stating therein that the employee responded to an emergency or disaster in an official capacity and the schedule and dates of employee’s participation in such response.
Further, the employee who may be absent or tardy from employment due to emergency response shall make a reasonable effort to notify his or her employer of such absence.
According to the proposal, the prohibition shall not be applicable to an employee who is on vacation, sick, study or maternal leave with or without pay, response to an emergency or disaster without being officially deployed and fails to provide a written verification within a reasonable period of time.
Yangot claimed any employee who has been terminated, demoted or otherwise discriminated against in accordance with his or terms and conditions of employment involving a violation of the ordinance may file a civil action his or her employer seeking reinstatement with payment of back wages and other benefits accrued.
The ordinance stated that any employee may commence a civil action not later than one year after the date of the violation of the prohibition, citing as ground the provisions of the local legislative measure.
The CDRRM officer of the local government shall promulgate the required implementing rules and regulations for the strict implementation of the measure.
Yangot underscored that in the matter of using one’s skills and time to give back to the community, a volunteer can suffer drawbacks in the many areas of life such as work, inability to cover for living expenses and even health, as in the case of volunteer garbage haulers of the city who depend on scrap and recyclable materials for their daily sustenance.
By Dexter A. See