The virus of injustice and indifference
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - March 21, 2020 - 12:00am

Worse than COVID-19 are the viruses of social injustice and the indifference of the rich and the powerful over the sad plight of the poor and powerless. Employers who don’t have hearts and consciences would rather let their workers starve than set aside their greed for profit. This is totally reprehensible.

As a lawyer specializing in HR laws and labor cases, I get a lot of consultation nowadays on how to defend employers and their management from demands and claims emanating from unions and individual workers on the implementation of the so-called “no work no pay” policy. I’m quite disappointed, if not exasperated that rich company owners earning millions would interpret the laws “by the letter that killeth, and not by the spirit that giveth life.” Instead of answering their questions from the purely legalistic ways, I opt to reply on the Christian and humane way, by telling them: Let us set aside technicalities and think of our workers as our brothers and sisters who need to feed their families in these times of great sadness and difficulties.

I know many of my clients are disappointed, but I’m a Christian first, and a lawyer second. As a Christian I need to remind all employers that all our employees didn’t choose not to work. They are being ordered by government to stay home. And when they do stay home, they have families to feed, rent to pay, and water and electric bills to be mindful of and be up to date in payment. Some have sick children or parents who need medicine. Their expenses continue even as their work is put to a halt. Therefore, this is a time for employers to exercise compassion for their workers.

As a lawyer, I advise my clients to put the employees on vacation with pay. Those with no accumulated vacation leaves, they may let them get an emergency loan at zero interest to tide them over in these difficult times. Those whose operations can be done at home, let the employees work from home. The company HR personnel should be creative enough to formulate systems and programs where people can still be productive at home using computers and taking advantage of technology. Of course, productivity and profitability may decline. But these are extraordinary times, and profits can wait while family survival cannot be postponed.

This isn’t a time to throw the book at workers who can hardly make ends meet. This is the time to feel the sufferings of the poor, the construction workers, the casuals, contractuals and the daily-paid workers, including the job-order employees, millions of them in the national agencies, in courts, legislative offices and local government units. Let us think that when there is no work for them, there will be no wages to be paid to them. And when that happens, their families would have no food on the table. They cannot pay their rent or cannot buy basic medicines for their sick family members. Thus, employers have the social responsibility to help, not by compulsion of law, but by the urging of their Christian conscience.

This is a time to help the poor and the powerless, not a time to brandish the law as a weapon to exacerbate the sufferings of our workers. For God's sake, profits can be deferred but the survival of our employees cannot be postponed. Let us be just and merciful. Let us kill the virus of social injustice and indifference.

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