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Government aid for 13th month pay eyed

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is considering the plea of “distressed” employers to ask the Duterte administration to subsidize the 13th month pay of their workers.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said he might ask Finance Sec. Carlos Dominguez, along with Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, if government could subsidize the 13th month pay of companies that were heavily affected by the pandemic.

“Employers are ‘willing’ to give workers their 13th month pay but are operating at a loss due to the pandemic,” Bello said.

While the Labor chief noted that thousands of small Filipino businesses had shut down due to the COVID-19 health crisis, many of those which remained operational were barely surviving.

“ These struggling companies,” Bello said, “have asked the government for help in paying their employees’ 13th-month pay.”

“The workers want to get their 13th-month pay because that is what’s written in PD 851. The employers are not refusing them,” he said.

“Someone used the phrase how can you wring blood from stone? They’re willing to pay but they can’t. Businesses have been operating at a loss,” he said.

He said Wednesday’s meeting did not end in a deadlock because workers wanted to be given their 13th month pay and employers were not denying it to them.

Federation of Free Workers president Sonny Matula noted that “no agreement” was reached among participants in the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council meeting.

“There was no agreement reached… But for us, the 13th month pay of workers should be given to them. They need it badly, especially during this time of pandemic,” he added.

The meeting was attended by Bello, Lopez, Employers Confederation of the Philippines president Sergio Ortiz-Luiz Jr. and trade union leaders, among others.

Meanwhile, Associated Labor Union-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines spokesman Alan Tanjusay said they registered their “strong opposition” to proposals to give exemption to the payment of 13th month pay.

“We asked them not to change the policy on the 13th month pay. Workers are looking forward to it during Christmas and school opening. In fact, many of them have incurred debts with that bonus as payment,” Tanjusay added.

Meanwhile, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III on Wednesday said he was awaiting the details of the Department of Labor’s proposal to subsidize the 13th-month pay of employees of micro, small and medium enterprises to find out if the government had enough money for it.

“I have asked [Labor] Secretary Bello for the details of his proposal so we can determine if we have the budget cover for its,” Dominguez told reporters covering the Finance beat when asked to comment on

Bello’s earlier proposition.

Bello said in a radio interview Wednesday that DoLE was considering to subsidize the 13th-month pay of employees of MSMEs “in distress.”

Malacanang earlier said the 13th-month pay of workers was “mandatory” under the law, which has not yet been amended, in response to DoLE’s proposal to defer giving workers the yearend additional salary due to the effect of coronavirus pandemic.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in an online briefing that the law “has not been amended. That is the law. That is a mandatory provision of the Labor Code.”

Roque said the DoLE would have to take into consideration the current law governing the 13th-month pay.

This developed as Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, House Ways and Means Committee chair, proposed that the government provide loans to COVID-19-hit enterprises, at “highly favorable rates and long maturity periods,” so they could pay their workers’ 13th month salaries.

Salceda’s proposal was contained in a three-page aide memoire sent Monday to House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez.

Under PD No. 851, employers from the private sector are required to pay their rank-and-file employees a 13th month pay not later than December 24 every year.

The 13th month pay is equivalent to one twelfth (1/12) of an employee’s basic annual salary.

The Palace said the mandatory 13th month pay should not be confused with the “Christmas bonus” commonly practiced by local business setting because that bonus was not a demandable and enforceable obligation, and could only be released upon an employer’s voluntary discretion.

In terms of both economic and legal considerations, the DOLE proposal appears to be unsound, said Salceda, who also co-chairs the Economic Stimulus and Recovery Cluster-Defeat COVID-19 Committee.

Topics: Department of Labor and Employment , Duterte administration , 13th month pay
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