MANILA— Leaders of various groups representing private sector and government workers on Friday denounced the Inter-Agency Task Force 's (IATF) resolution requiring COVID-19 vaccination for on-site workers, as they vowed to strongly oppose its implementation, even up to the point of questioning its legality before the courts.
The groups argued that the resolution is against the Labor Code and violates people's constitutional rights.
Part of IATF Resolution 148-B states: "In areas where there are sufficient supplies of COVID-19 vaccines as determined by the National COVID-19 Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC), all establishments and employers in the publc and private sector shall require their eligible employees who are tasked to do on-site work to be vaccinated against COVID-19.”
“Eligible employees who remain to be unvaccinated may not be terminated solely by reason thereof. However, they shall be required to undergo RT-PCR tests regularly at their own expense for purposes of on-site work. Provided that, antigen tests may be resorted to when RT-PCR capacity is insufficient or not immediately available,” it added.
Anne Krueger of the BPO Employees Network said this policy— which will take effect on December 1— s discriminatory to the working class.
“Ang BPO industry, race to the bottom na ang sahod. Pababa na pababa ang sahod ng mga manggagawa sa BPO, tapos talamak pa po ang COVID."
(In the BPO industry, salaries are now a race to the bottom. Salaries are getting lower and lower, and COVID is still widespread.)
"So, ang magiging epekto nito sa amin, hindi na nga nagkakasya din ang sahod sa mga manggagawa sa call center, magdadagdag pa ng gastusin 'yung mga kinakailangang bumalik sa trabaho,” she stressed.
(So the effect of this is, while we are struggling to make ends meet, those who need to work on site will have additional expenses.)
Lawyer VJ Topacio of the Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center, meanwhile, said IATF Resolution 148-B is in direct contravention of the country's existing laws.
“Itong IATF resolution ho na 'to ay kumbaga eh in direct contravention po sa mga existing na batas natin kasama na po 'yung ating Konstitusyon," he said.
(This IATF resolution is in direct contravention of our existing laws, including the constitution.)
"Pagdating po sa Konstitusyon n'yan ay malinaw na etong ‘no vaccine, no work,’ ito ay discriminatory."
(When it comes to our Constitution, it is clear that the ‘no vaccine, no work, policy is discriminatory.)
“Gusto natin bakunado ang lahat. Pero hindi sa ganitong pamamaraan… Ang reason lang po sa suspension o pagkakatanggal ay yung ‘just cause’ na tinatawag o authorized causes," he stressed.
(We want everyone to be vaccinated, but we don't want it done this way... the only reason for suspension or termination of employees should be just causes.)
"Ang isang manggagawa na walang bakuna, eto ay hindi rason, hindi ito just cause para i-suspinde. Kasi 'pag pinauwi mo, in effect that’s suspension. 'Pag tinggal mo sa trabaho, that’s termination,” Topacio added.
(A worker being unvaccinated is not just cause for suspension. If you send them home, that is in effect suspension. If you remove them from the job, that's termination.)
The group stressed that they are not "anti-vaxxers," and that all of them are in fact already fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
And while they agree that regular RT-PCR or antigen tests are needed to ensure people’s health and safety, they said such expenses must be shouldered by the government and not by the workers.
Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Ferdie Gaite, meanwhile, said that the government should first recognize its inability to provide enough vaccines for the people before imposing mandatory vaccination.
Senatorial candidate Elmer Labog of Kilusang Mayo Uno also pointed out that many workers have yet to receive their COVID-19 vaccines because in the countryside, the jabs are still coming in trickles.
“'Wag kami. Wag nyo kaming lokohin at sisihin sa kapabayaan at kapalpakan ninyo (Don't blame us. Don't fool us and don't blame us for your ineptitude and failure)... If there’s anything that should be mandatory today, it should be competence and care,” Labog said.
Topacio said they are now discussing the possibility of challenging the legality of IATF Resolution 148-B before the court.
“Sa usapin ng pagsasampa sa ating hukuman, sa ating mga korte ng legal remedies, naguusap na po 'yung mga groups ng mga lawyers natin… ang pinakamabilis dito ay temporary restraining order, an injunction, pwede mong kwestyunin ang constitutionality nung resolution through a Certiorari."
(On the topic of filing cases before the courts, of seeking legal remedies, our lawyers are already discussing... the quickest is way is through a temporary restraining order, an injunction, or questioning its constitutionality through a petition for certiorari.)
"Maraming pwedeng gawin at tingin ko mas marami pang mga lawyers ang tutulong dito,” Topacio said.
(There are many ways to go about this and I think more lawyers would be ready to help us.)
The group said they will seek an audience with Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on November 29 in the hopes of convincing him to stop the implementation of IATF Resolution 148-B.