Labor dept says 'no COVID-19 vaccine, no pay' is unlawful

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 18 2021 07:08 PM | Updated as of Oct 18 2021 08:08 PM

Essential workers residing in Magalong, Pampanga receive their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Magalang Town Plaza through the Office of the Vice President’s Vaccine Express initiative on Sept. 25, 2021. Charlie Villegas, OVP
Manila residents get vaccinated against COVID-19 inside the Ramon Magsaysay Highschool in Manila on September 4, 2021. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — Employers who refuse to pay workers who are unvaccinated against COVID-19 will be investigated as this practice is “unlawful”, the labor department said on Monday. 
 
“Under the law, hindi mo pwedeng i-hold ang sweldo ng employee unless there is a legal basis or legal cause,” said Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.

(You cannot withhold the salary of an employee, unless there is legal basis or legal cause.) 

There is no law that prohibits any employee to work unvaccinated.

“We are in a democratic country, and there is what we call ‘freedom of choice’. Di mo pwedeng pilitin ang mga tao na magpabakuna unless merong batas,” Bello said in a virtual press conference.

(You cannot force someone to get vaccinated unless there is a law.)

He confirmed the labor department received communication from the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines on alleged cases of employers withholding the salaries of unvaccinated workers. 

But the agency has yet to receive formal complaints on this, he said. 

“Kung meron, ang immediate reaction natin, ang Department of Labor would conduct an inspection. If totoo na mayroon kang ganung employer… we will issue a compliance order and that is to pay the salary of the employee,” he said.

(If there is one, our immediate reaction is the Department of Labor would conduct an inspection. If it is true that there is such an employer… we will issue a compliance order, and that is to pay the salary of the employee.)

If the employer refuses, this order "will become a final executory order" and the labor department will look for or auction the firm's assets and properties that could pay for the salaries, Bello said. 

“Sana they (employers) should remember that this is a statutory obligation. 'Di pwedeng i-delay. Wala ring exemption. You have to pay to comply with your legal obligation,” he said.

(Tthey should remember that this is a statutory obligation, it cannot be delayed. There are also no exemptions.) 

Bello said workers should report any abuse immediately.

“Please come to us. Kung ayaw ninyong magpakilala (if you want to remain anonymous), just tell us who these employers are and we will be willing to immediately cause an inspection of the business establishment... We assure you we will take immediate action,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon agreed "it is illegal to withhold salary regardless of the vaccination status of the worker." 

“A vaccination card is not a daily time record that is a primary document to prove that a work has been rendered. Once a work or service is rendered, a company has an obligation under the law to pay the employee,” said Drilon, a former labor secretary.

Instead of using force, employers "should work with the government in inoculating their workers and provide education regarding the effects and benefits of the vaccine," said Sen. Risa Hontiveros. 

Sen. Joel Villanueva urged the labor department to "incentivize employers to encourage vaccination in the workplace." 

The Philippines has tallied 2.7 million overall coronavirus infections. It has so far fully vaccinated about 24.3 million of its 109 million people. 

— Report from Jasmin Romero, ABS-CBN News

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