MANILA (UPDATED) – Withholding the salary of employees because they have not yet received the vaccine against COVID-19 is illegal, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said Tuesday.
The DOLE issued the statement after the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) on Monday said it received reports of employees who were denied their salary because they remain unvaccinated against COVID-19.
TUCP spokesperson Alan Tanjusay said 12 food service workers complained that they were not paid because of a "no vaccine no salary" scheme.
“Wala, bawal yan, Jeff. Bawal yan,” Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said on TeleRadyo.
(No, that is prohibited.)
“Labag sa batas nga 'yan. You cannot withhold the salary of an employee or a worker without legal basis. Eh yung hindi pagbabakuna, hindi legal basis ‘yun. Kaya bawal na bawal yang ganyang policy na no vax, no pay.”
(That is against the law. You cannot withhold the salary of an employee or a worker without legal basis. Vaccination is not a legal basis. So the ‘no vax, no pay scheme is highly prohibited.)
Bello said, however, that they have yet to receive formal complaints about employers implementing a "no vax, no pay" scheme.
He stressed that workers can report employers who withhold workers’ salaries until they get vaccinated through DOLE's hotline 1349 or any of their offices.
“Yung worker na hindi pinasahod dahil hindi bakunado, pwedeng pumunta sa aming tanggapan. Pwede nga lang--pwede ngang ano eh, through our hotline yung 1349, pwede tumawag, sabihin na isa siyang isang empleyado, hindi siya sinasahuran, dahil hindi siya bakunado, pwede yung ganoon yun,” he said.
(A worker who was not paid because he is not vaccinated can go to out offices or call or hotline and say he was not paid because he hasn’t been vaccinated yet.)
“Basta ang mahalaga, malaman namin kung sino yung employer o sino yung manager o kumpanya na hindi nagpapasahod dahil hindi bakunado. Para sa ganoon, pwede namin inspeksyunin agad yung employer.”
(What’s important is that we know which employer, manager, or company is withholding the salary. That way, we can conduct an inspection right away.)
Once they have verified the workers’ complaint to be true, Bello said they will issue a compliance order.
“’Pag nakatanggap kami ng reklamong ganyan, agad-agad, papadala kaming inspector doon sa concerned employer. We will verify kung totoo yung complaint na hindi nagpapasahod dahil hindi bakunado. Kapagka totoo, na hindi talaga nagpapasahod dahil hindi bakunado, mag-iissue kami ng compliance order.”
(When we receive that complaint, we will send an inspector right away to the concerned employer. We will verify if the complaint is true, then if it is, we will issue a compliance order.)
“Sasabihin namin doon sa employer, Mr. Employer, please pay your worker. Yung hindi pagbabakuna ay hindi legal basis to hold the salary.”
(We will tell the employer, Mr. Employer, please pay your worker. Not being vaccinated is not a basis to hold the salary.)
“Ngayon, ‘pag hindi siya sumunod, then ang gagawin namin, yung dahil yung order namin will become final and executory, eh hahanap kami ng property niya o pera niya na, ile-levy namin, at gagamitin namin yung nakuha naming pera doon sa bagay pambayad sa suweldo ng worker,” he explained.
(If he doesn’t comply, our order will become final and executory, then we’ll look for his money or property that we can levy, then we’ll use what we get from there to pay the workers their wages.)
Bello said he continues to encourage workers to get vaccinated.
“’Yun ang pakiusap ko, araw-araw nananawagan ako sa ating mga kababayan, especially yung mga workers natin, na magpabakuna na para safe sila sa contamination.”
(That’s what I’m telling them, everyday I am calling on our countrymen, especially on our workers, to get vaccinated to protect them from contamination.)
He added, “Kaya sana, lahat tayo magpabakuna na. At wag na tayo mamili, wag tayong mamili kung anong bakuna ang gamitin.”
(Let’s all get vaccinated. And let’s not choose, let’s not be choosy about the vaccine brands we want.)
For his part, Employers Confederation of the Philippines President Sergio Ortiz-Luis agrees with Bello that the the "no jab, no pay" scheme is illegal.
He stressed that even before vaccines were introduced, safety protocols were put in place at workplaces to ensure the safety of employees and customers alike.
"Even before the vaccine was introduced, we deal with the protocols. We just ensured that those who come to work have no symptoms, that they are tested regularly," he said.
"Again, the problem is right now, it's illegal to discriminate against them (unvaccinated). We just have to live with the fact," he added.
In an interview on ANC's "Rundown," Ortiz-Luis said they are still trying to find out which employers implemented the "no vaccine, no salary" scheme.
"It’s probably coming from some in the provinces, because here, we try to find out who they are."
He stressed, however, that their group believes that discriminating against the unvaccinated is wrong.
"Right now, it’s very clear, as we’ve heard the Secretary of Labor, it’s illegal. And, personally, I think, it’s even immoral to do so."
"It’s based on flawed medical reason that distinguishes [between] vaccinated [and] unvaccinated. Because even the vaccinated can be vaccinated and they can also infect. So I think it’s a matter of protocol rather than trying to divide the vaccinated and unvaccinated," he said.
Meanwhile, the Makabayan bloc has filed a resolution asking the House Committee on Labor and Employment to investigate the reported "no jab, no pay" policy of some companies.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said that if this is indeed happening, those engaged in it should be held accountable.
"This is not only discriminatory but outright illegal," Zarate said.
House Resolution 2309 cited Section 12 of Republic Act 11525, which provides that vaccine cards shall not be considered as an additional mandatory requirement for educational, employment, and other similar government transaction purposes.
It also noted that Article 116 of the Labor Code prohibits employers from withholding the wages of their workers "by force, stealth, intimidation, threat or by any other means whatsoever without the worker's consent.”
The resolution also mentioned DOLE's Labor Advisory No. 3, which it issued on March 12.
The advisory states that "covered establishments and employers shall endeavor to encourage other employees to get vaccinated. However, any employee who refuses or fails to be vaccinated shall not be discriminated against in term of tenure, promotion, training, pay, and other benefits, among others, or terminated from employment. No vaccine, no work policy shall not be allowed."
--with reports from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News