Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the government would sue employers imposing a “no vaccine, no salary” policy, saying this practice is illegal.
Bello offered this assurance Monday after the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) reported that several employers refuse to pay their workers because they are not yet vaccinated.
“Please come to us. If you don’t want to be identified, just tell us who these employers are, and we will be willing to conduct an inspection. We assure you that we will take immediate legal action,” Bello in a press briefing.
TUCP spokesperson Alan Tanjusay earlier called on the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to investigate some employers who have been withholding the salary of their employees until they can prove that they were already fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The labor group said compelling workers to get vaccinated by withholding a worker’s wage and denying full compensation for work performed or rendered is not only a violation of the Labor Code but obviously also a human rights violation.
The labor organization added that they would provide DOLE with the names of establishments implementing such a policy.
“The non-vaccination of employees is not a legal basis to withhold their salary, so the ‘no vaccine, no pay’ policy is prohibited,” Bello said, adding “you cannot force someone to get vaccinated unless there is a law requiring it.”
However, Bello still encouraged all workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, saying that vaccines would protect them from the deadly disease.
DOLE released an advisory in August against the “no vaccine, no work” policy, calling the practice “discriminatory.”
In a statement, TUCP denounced what it called “an act of reprehensible discrimination and harassment imposed on helpless workers.”
“We warn employers that such a scheme to compel workers to get vaccinated is contrary and unlawful pursuant to Article 116 of the Labor Code and is punishable by a fine or imprisonment,” said TUCP president and TUCP Partylist Rep. Raymond Mendoza.
Senators also denounced the “no vaccine, no salary” scheme as illegal.
“There should be no harassment or shortcut on the part of employers in encouraging their workers to get vaccinated,” said Senator Joel Villanueva, chairman of the Senate labor committee.
He said the scheme was “patently illegal and inhumane, plain and simple.”
“We urge DOLE to incentivize employers to encourage vaccination in the workplace. We also call for DOLE’s immediate action to ensure our workers are paid their wages, regardless of their vaccination status and to impose penalties on those who would be found violating the Labor Code provisions on the nonpayment of wages,” he added.
Senator Risa Hontiveros said the discriminatory practice was illegal and that the DOLE should prosecute employers committing such acts.
“The employers, instead of using force, should work with the government in inoculating their workers and provide education regarding the effects and benefits of the vaccine,” Hontiveros said.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon, a former Labor secretary, said that refusal to pay wages or salaries for work or service that has been rendered is illegal.
“A vaccination card is not a daily time record that is a primary document to prove that work has been rendered. Once work or service is rendered, a company has an obligation under the law to pay the employee,” Drilon said.
Drilon also said that a vaccine card is also not a requirement for employment.
He said Section 12 of Republic Act 11525 or the COVID-19 Vaccination Program clearly emphasized that “vaccine cards shall not be considered as an additional mandatory requirement for educational, employment, and other similar government transactions processes.”
In a media briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire reiterated that being vaccinated against COVID-19 is not a requirement for workers to receive their salaries.
She said the government only aims to encourage the public to get vaccinated by giving them incentives.
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