'No vaccine, no salary' scheme illegal — senators

'No vaccine, no salary' scheme illegal â senators
San Juan City residents queue for their COVID-19 shots at the Filoil Arena on May 24, 2021.
The STAR / Boy Santos

MANILA, Philippines — A "no vaccine, no salary" policy that some employers are reportedly imposing is illegal and inhumane, the chair of the Senate committee on labor said as he urged the labor department to punish companies that use it.

Two other senators also condemned the scheme, which the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines bared over the weekend.

"Workers not being paid just because they are unvaccinated is patently illegal and inhumane, plain and simple. Wala po dapat brasuhan o shortcut sa paghihikayat ng mga employers sa pagbabakuna ng kanilang mga manggagawa," Sen. Joel Villanueva said.

(There should not be any strong-arming or shortcuts in encouraging employers to have their workers vaccinated.)

Around 300 firms have moved to procure vaccines for their employees although most employers have relied on the rollout of the government's vaccination program.

TUCP, through Rep. Raymond Mendoza, said over the weekend that some employers have allegedly withheld the salary of unvaccinated employees until they can show vaccination cards to prove they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

"That is illegal. If work has been rendered, it is illegal to withhold salary regardless of the vaccination status of the worker," Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who previously headed the labor and justice departments, said in a statement. 

He added that once an employee has rendered work or service, a company is mandated to pay them. A vaccination card, unlike a daily time record, he said, is neither proof of work rendered nor is it a requirement for employment. 

Drilon cited Section 12 of the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021, which states that "vaccine cards shall not be considered as an additional mandatory requirement for educational, employment, and other similar government transactions processes."

"It should not be a requirement or party of policy to discriminate against workers especially since there is still a shortage of vaccine supply in the country," Sen. Risa Hontiveros said in Filipino in a statement where she slammed the policy as "unacceptable."

All three senators urged employers and the government to instead find ways to educate and incentivize workers to get vaccinated.

Hontiveros further called on DOLE to "promptly investigate and prosecute employers committing such acts," emphasizing that a single day of delay in releasing a workers' wages could spell hunger of their whole family. 

Villanueva, too, urged DOLE to "impose penalties on those who would be found violating the Labor Code provisions on the non-payment of wages." — Bella Perez-Rubio 

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