DOLE urged to issue clear rules upholding workers’ rights vs ‘no vaccine, no work’ policy

Robie de Guzman   •   March 4, 2021   •   366

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Joel Villanueva on Thursday called on the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to issue clear guidelines as he warned against discriminating workers who opt out of vaccination programs implemented by their employers.

In a statement, Villanueva said DOLE should issue rules on the matter to ensure that both workers and employers stand on a level playing field.

Instead of forcing workers to be inoculated and threatening them with termination from employment, the senator stressed that companies should make efforts to build confidence in taking COVID-19 vaccines.

Villanueva issued the remark in response to reports that some employers are implementing a “no vaccine, no work” policy.

“A worker who is not yet immune from virus shouldn’t lose his immunity from being fired arbitrarily,” he said.

“The biggest challenge at the moment for the labor-employer-government tripartite is not just to give more workers better vaccines but also to increase vaccine confidence,” he added.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III earlier said that implementing a “no vaccine, no work” policy is illegal and could be considered as a discrimination.

Bello also pointed out that at present, the country does not have enough supply of COVID-19 vaccines to inoculate workers.

The policy came to light after some workers in the agriculture, manufacturing, and services sectors allegedly complained about it.

According to Villanueva, employees should not be faulted for refusing to be inoculated if they have concerns over the vaccines that would be used on them.

“Sa pagbabakuna, the best pa rin po ang ‘Sana All.’ We cannot have a workforce divided between the ‘Jabbed’ and the ‘Jabbed Nots,’” he said.

He also urged the government to ramp up its campaign against public vaccine hesitancy in order to attain its goal of reviving the economy battered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The challenge for our government right now is to increase the level of confidence of our people on the vaccines,” Villanueva said.

“There has to be a concerted effort to bring up the degree of trust on vaccines because the restoration of jobs lost in the pandemic, and to a larger extent, our economic recovery, depend on the success of the vaccination program,” he added.

No deployment ban on OFWs to Israel just yet — DOLE

Marje Pelayo   •   May 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Tensions may be escalating in Israel but the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said there is no advice yet for a deployment ban of Filipino workers to the Jewish state.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III in an interview with UNTV on Friday (May 14) explained that though DOLE assures its readiness should circumstances require immediate action, the decision for such depends on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

“We are waiting for the signal coming from the Department of Foreign Affairs pagdating sa ban o kaya sa repatriation,” Bello said.

“Hinihintay natin. Kapag nag Alert Level 3 or 4 na, deployment ban at maaaring force repatriation. Pero sa ngayon, wala pa,” he added.

The DFA is guided by four alert levels in evaluating the threats Filipinos may encounter in their host countries or territories.

These stages include:

Alert Level 1 or the precautionary phase issued when signals or valid signs of internal disturbance, instability, and/or external threat to the host country is evident;

Alert Level 2 or the restriction phase issued if circumstances are life-threatening or there are obvious risks to security, and property of Filipinos as a result of internal disturbance, instability, or external threat;

Alert Level 3 or the voluntary repatriation phase issued when violent uprisings or external aggression occurs in a specific area; and

Alert Level 4 or the mandatory evacuation or repatriation issued once a large-scale internal conflict or full-blown external attack occurs.

To date, Israel is host to around 70,000 OFWs mostly working as caregivers and hotel workers, the Labor Chief said.

He added that the Israeli government is even requesting additional workers, specifically about 5,000 caregivers from the Philippines.

Bello on Sinas’ request requiring police clearance for labor-related transactions: ‘More harm than good.’

Marje Pelayo   •   May 5, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III responded to the request of Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief General Debold Sinas on the latter’s request to require national police clearances for labor-related transactions.

Bello argued that though his agency supports the PNP’s rollout of the National Police Clearance System (NPCS) and while the proposal is ‘good-intentioned,’ the Labor Chief said requiring DOLE’s clients to secure an NPC to avail of its services will do ‘more harm than good.’

“It is a form of a red tape to all and an additional financial burden to many,” Bello said.

The Labor Secretary noted that after his consultation with DOLE’s stakeholders including workers and employers group, 94% of them are not in favor of requiring an NPC in labor-related transactions.

Bello also argued that the proposal is not aligned with the policy of President Rodrigo Duterte on the Ease in Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018 and there is no legal basis in requiring an NOC to DOLE clients.

“We are with the PNP in building a safer place for Filipino. We can achieve this without adding burden to the transacting public and the people we serve,” Bello concluded.

Sinas sent a letter to Bello recommending to the agency the use of national police clearance to have broader information as to the character of all its applicants.

The Labor Chief earlier reacted that such a policy will only add to the burden caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to its applicant.

Private sector workers urged to get COVID vaccine jabs in June

Marje Pelayo   •   May 4, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The private sector is gearing up for the expected mass vaccination in June once the supply of COVID-19 vaccines specifically, AstraZeneca, arrives in the country.

According to Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Secretary Joey Concepcion, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III already issued a memorandum encouraging employers and workers in the private sector to get vaccinated.

Concepcion believes that vaccination is the only solution to the country’s pandemic and economic problems.

“Every citizen has to do their civic duty to take the vaccine. That is the only way,” he said.

Together with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Concepcion said they have launched the ‘Let’s Go Bakuna’ campaign to address vaccine misinformation and boost confidence among employees.

He said vaccination should cover 100 percent of the workers’ sector to be able to achieve herd immunity.

“Kasi kung 70 percent lang ng mga empleyedo ang magpapabakuna, hindi natin ma-achieve ang herd immunity sa bansa natin. Iyong factory safety natin ay 70 percent lang, paano ang mangyayri sa 30 percent? Iyong 30 percent ay pwede pa ring ma-infect ang nasa 70 percent kasi ang efficacy ng mga bakuna hindi naman 100 percent,” he explained.

Concepcion said around 17 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine are expected to arrive in batches in June this year.

“That is going to help about close to 100 companies,” he said adding that the first and second batches of mass vaccination for workers are expected in June and July, respectively.

“Ang mga logistics providers ang magde-deliver sa vaccination centers na pinili ng private sector,” he added.

Companies may tap private sector implementers to facilitate the inoculation of their workers.

“We have about over 200 private companies that will do the vaccine implementation. Lahat iyan nakahanda na,” Concepcion assured.

“Vaccine confidence and vaccine implementation, iyon ang kailangan natin gawin. The faster we implement it, the faster we stop this infection,” he said.

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