MANILA — The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) labelled as “inhuman and illegal” some employers’ reported “no vaccine, no salary” scheme, urging Labor Sec. Silvestre Bello III to issue an advisory “clearly outlining the fines and imprisonment imposable on employers for withholding the salaries of unvaccinated employees.”

In a statement released last October 17, TUCP has urged the Department of Labor and Employment to take immediate action. 

“The TUCP strongly condemns workplace arm-twisting being done by these employers. This is clearly an act of reprehensible discrimination and harassment imposed on helpless workers,” said Rep. Raymond Mendoza (TUCP party-list), with the group noting that some employers have reportedly withheld the salary of unvaccinated employees until they can show vaccination cards to prove they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. 

“We warn employers that such a scheme to compel workers to get vaccinated is contrary and unlawful pursuant to Article 116 of the Labor Code and is punishable by a fine or imprisonment,” Mendoza said.

In a report by The Philippine Star, Mendoza confirmed being approached by different workers being deprived of their salaries until they can prove being fully vaccinated while some sought the TUCP’s help to intervene on their behalf for fear of retaliation, being singled out or losing their jobs. 

The group’s statement also coincided with the release of DOLE’s Labor Advisory number. 3-21 which prohibits compelled vaccination. 

“Covered establishments and employers shall endeavor to encourage their employees to get vaccinated. However, any employee who refuses or fails to be vaccinated shall not be discriminated against in terms of tenure, promotion, training, pay, and other benefits, among others, or terminated from employment. No vaccine, no work policy shall not be allowed,” it says. 

Mendoza also urged the DOLE to conduct urgent inspections of identified workplaces to ensure unvaccinated workers are paid an amount equivalent to double the unpaid wages owing to them as provided by the Double Indemnity Law.

He noted that forcing workers to get vaccinated by withholding wages and denying full compensation for work performed is both a Labor Code and human rights violations. 

“The DOLE must act immediately before this practice spreads and becomes a norm,” Mendoza said, noting that the scheme also violates a section in Republic Act No. 11525 or the Act Establishing the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Expediting the Vaccine Procurement and Administration Process that says vaccine cards “shall not be considered as an additional mandatory requirement for education, employment, and other similar government transaction purposes.” 

The Labor Code of the Philippines’ Article 116 states that “It shall be unlawful for any person, directly or indirectly, to withhold any amount from the wages of a worker or induce him to give up any part of his wages by force, stealth, intimidation, threat, or by any other means whatsoever without the worker’s consent.”

Illegal and inhumane

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Sen. Risa Hontiveros have both condemned reports of some employers imposing a “no vaccine, no salary” scheme, calling it inhumane and illegal as they urged the DOLE to punish companies using the policy. 

“That is illegal. If work has been rendered, it is illegal to withhold salary regardless of the vaccination status of the worker,” Drilon, who previously headed the Labor and Justice departments, said in a statement. 

Drilon added that a vaccination card is neither proof of work rendered nor is it a requirement for employment as employers are mandated to pay workers who rendered work or service, citing 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,” Hontiveros said.

Government data show that over 23 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 while Malacañang previously said that some 7.57 million or 77.53 percent of the eligible population of Metro Manila are now fully vaccinated and another 8.92 million or 91.25percent have received a first dose.