Under fire for saying employers could fire unvaccinated employees, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III reversed himself yet again, saying that companies cannot fire workers who refuse to get vaccinated but are allowed to order them not to report to work.
“Not being vaccinated is no basis to dismiss [a worker]. But you can tell the employee, ‘If you do not want to get vaccinated, do not report to work for the meantime,’” Bello said.
Bello came under heavy criticism for saying that quarantine guidelines issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19 (IATF) formed a legal basis for employers to dismiss or withhold the salary of workers who refuse to get vaccinated.
Backpedalling on his claim that employers could withhold payment to unvaccinated workers, Bello said Friday that companies may apply a “no work, no pay” policy if the employees do not report to work.
The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) and the Partido Manggagawa (PM) slammed Bello III for justifying a “no jab, no work” and a “no jab, no pay” policy, saying it is the Department of Labor and Employment that is supposed to protect workers and save jobs.
“While refusing unvaccinated workers to work in facilities prohibited by alert levels is a practical health measure that employers may impose, terminating them from work is a cure worse than the disease. We demand that Secretary Bello withdraw this statement,” Rene Magtubo, PM chairman said.
“We do not agree with the interpretation of Secretary Bello that the IATF resolution on alert levels can form the legal basis for terminating employees. Said resolution on vaccination is never and should never be part of just and authorized causes for terminating employment contracts,” he said.
“The IATF resolution only requires fully vaccinated workers for the opening of certain services but the DOLE secretary overstretched its application to justify the ongoing, illegal ‘no jab, no pay’ and ‘no jab, no work’ schemes by companies,” the TUCP said.
“TUCP wants all qualified workers to voluntarily be vaccinated. We understand the importance and need to get vaccinated, it is for the workers and their families health too, but let us not forget the main problem still confronting us is the lack of vaccine supply and the inability of workers to get vaccination slots,” it said.
For his part, Bello said employers have the discretion whether or not to accept unvaccinated workers, saying this was not a form of discrimination.
The DOLE chief said being vaccinated can be considered as a qualification for the job—a reversal of his earlier positions on the nonpayment of workers and discrimination on the basis of a worker’s vaccination status.
The TUCP blasted Bello for giving more weight to “a mere IATF resolution” to the Labor Code, which prohibits the nonpayment of wages for work done.
TUCP spokesman Alan Tanjusay also pointed out that the Vaccination Act of 2021 specifically provides that a vaccination card is not a condition for employment.
"We remind Secretary Bello, that the IATF resolution does not say that unvaccinated workers, under Alert Level 3, can be fired by employers or have their salaries withheld, for not being able to submit a complete vaccination card. In short, the position of Secretary Bello is absolutely without legal basis and will now promote a rampant disregard for worker's rights at a time when, the secretary is aware, these workers and their rights are most vulnerable to violation,” the TUCP said.
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