Labor groups to challenge DOLEâs extension of forced leave of workers at SC
This undated photo shows the façade of the Supreme Court. Cagadas

Labor groups to challenge DOLE’s extension of forced leave of workers at SC

Xave Gregorio ( - October 28, 2020 - 1:01pm

MANILA, Philippines — Some labor groups are gearing to challenge before the Supreme Court the labor department’s extension of workers’ forced leave for a whole year, six months longer than allowed under the Labor Code.

“Extension of the floating status of workers beyond the six months maximum through a DO is illegal as it is tantamount to executive legislation,” Rene Magtubo, chair of the Partido Manggagawa, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III issued Friday a department order amending the Labor Code's implementing rules to allow employers to extend the forced leave of their workers for six more months in case of war, pandemics and other similar national emergencies.

In contrast, the Labor Code only provides for the suspension of employment for up to six months.

"This is yet another instance of the Duterte administration's utilization of the pandemic to prioritize the profits of capitalists over the rights and dignity of workers," Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino President Luke Espiritu said in a statement.

Kilusang Mayo Uno secretary general Jerome Adonis said in a text message that the move is “unfair” to laborers, especially now that the holidays are approaching.

The department order provides that workers would not lose their employment if they find alternative work during the extension of their forced leave. It also says that workers would be entitled to separation pay should retrenchment be necessary before or after the period of extended forced leave.

But Espiritu said the department order allows employers to “minimize, if not totally circumvent” the payment of separation pay.

The department order states that the first six months of the suspension of employment shall be included in the computation of the employees’ separation pay in case of retrenchment.

The labor department’s move to extend the suspension of employment for more than six months is part of measures adopted by the government in response to the pandemic.

Bello earlier said that this would allow companies to keep workers employed, albeit without pay, while industry group Employers Confederation of the Philippines said this will let firms plan their response to the pandemic.

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