THE Department of Labor and Employment will not defer or grant exemption to the payment of workers’ 13th month pay.
Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III yesterday said deferring or giving exemption to the pay out of the 13th month salary benefit is no longer on the table, as the government will move forward with handing out subsidies or loans to “distressed” employers to enable them to comply with the labor standard.
“We will not postpone, defer, and we will not give any exemption to the payment of 13th month pay. The law says, ‘pay the workers their 13th month pay on or before December 24,’ ‘yan po ang ipapatupad ng Department of Labor,” he said.
Bello said that DOLE acknowledges that many businesses, especially micro, small, and medium enterprises, will be unable to comply with the 13th Month Pay law. Thus, the Labor department requested the Department of Finance for a subsidy.
“Ngayon, alam natin naman na ‘yung mga employers they want to give kaya lang meron talagang hindi kaya at ito ‘yung micro, small, and medium enterprises. ‘Yun ang tutulungan natin if our Secretary of Finance will approve our request na i-subsidize ‘yung mga micro and small enterprises. Kung hindi natin maibigay ‘yung subsidy na ‘yon, puwede natin silang bigyan ng loan facility sa lahat ng mga bangko,” he said.
Just last week, Bello was quoted as saying that micro, small, and medium enterprises that are “in distress” can be allowed not to give its employees the mandatory 13th month pay.
“Under the law, kailangan bayaran ang 13th month pay. Ang exemption diyan is kapag ang company is in distress. Most probably yung mga in distress ay yung galing sa micro, small and medium industries,” he said last week.
Meanwhile, labor groups welcomed Bello’s latest announcement.
Defend Jobs Philippines said the statement will give assurance to workers that they will be receiving what was rightfully theirs this Christmas season in the time of pandemic.
“The Department Order that will be released tomorrow by Bello must oblige ALL employers and must not exempt anyone. We reiterate our position that the government must allocate funds to subsidize in distress micro, small and medium enterprises in order for then to comply (with the law on) the payment of the 13th month pay to their workers and employees,” the group said in a statement.
For his part, Elmer Labog, chairperson of the Kilusang Mayo Uno, said workers claim victory in DOLE’s non-deferment of 13th month pay
“Tagumpay ito ng sama-samang pagkilos at pagpaparinig ng ating tinig. Sa kabila ng mga tangkang balewalain ang ating karapatan, tumindig tayo para sa 13th month pay. Mabuhay ang mga manggagawa!” he said.
However, the KMU head reiterated that the national government through appropriate agencies must allot subsidies for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that are struggling amid the pandemic and economic crisis.
“Para masiguradong matanggap ng manggagawa ang karapatan, kailangang bigyan ng gobyerno ng assistance ang mga distressed na negosyo. Imbis na sa gera at pork barrel ilaan ang kaban ng bayan, bakit hindi nila tulungan ang mga manggagawa at maliliit na negosyante?” he said.
Labog also called for the workers to be vigilant and continue to be united as they monitor the implementation of the order which is set to be released tomorrow.
“Kailangang iseguro natin ang ating karapatan. Wag tayong titigil maging kritikal at mapanuri. Palakasin pa natin ang ating mga unyon at organisasyon bilang kalasag sa mga atake sa atin,” he said.