Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez sees no need to defer the 13th month pay for this year as the government stands ready to support distressed micro and small enterprises amid the pandemic.
“No official discussion on deferment because companies needing funds can possibly source from loans,” Lopez told reporters in a text message yesterday.
Lopez said the government will provide support, whether through loan or subsidy, to micro and small enterprises and their workers.
National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council (NTIPC) member Roland de la Cruz and representatives from national labor centers and labor federations also manifested their objection to the Department of Labor and Employment’s proposal to extend the temporary layoff period of employees and exempt certain businesses from paying the 13th month pay, a press release said.
In an emergency online meeting of the NTIPC on Tuesday, presided over by DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III and attended by Lopez and national tripartite leaders, de la Cruz presented his objections to the proposal, saying “the fear and apprehension of the workers in the extension of the temporary layoff period is that workers may lose their right to demand and receive separation benefits if the employer will continue to operate at a loss and incur severe financial losses and business reversals. Under existing jurisprudence, an employer who suffered severe financial loss and business reversal is exempted from paying separation pay to its employees.”
In the meeting, the DOLE presented a draft department order where employers may be allowed to extend the temporary layoff period of its employees from the original maximum of six months as provided for under Article 301 of the Labor Code to another six months, provided such is voluntarily entered into by the employee in the presence of the union or the DOLE personnel in unorganized establishments.
Another agenda is a draft DO where micro, small and medium enterprises found distressed may be exempted from the payment of 13th month pay for year 2020, the press release added.
“Coming from the labor federations founded by the very same person, the late labor leader Zoilo de la Cruz Jr., who proposed and requested then President Ferdinand Marcos to sign into law PD 851 or the 13th Month Pay law, we manifest our total and absolute objection to the proposed department order. The Filipino workers have suffered much, we cannot let them suffer further by depriving them of this much anticipated benefit, the 13th month pay” de la Cruz added.
The proposed DOLE issuances encountered strong opposition from representatives coming from national labor organizations, such as Uni Global Union-Philippine Liaison Council, Nagkaisa Labor Coalition, National Trade Union Center, Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino, National Confederation of Labor, Kilusan Mayo Uno and the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines.
Bello, in a radio interview yesterday, said they are currently studying the possibility to assist employers who have suffered losses due to the pandemic.
“I may consider the proposal of employers, I will ask Secretary (Carlos) Dominguez of the Department of Finance with the help of my partner Lopez of DTI and try to convince the Finance Secretary, to possibly allow employers that were badly hit to be subsidized by the government,” he said.
He reiterated that under PD 851, employers are mandated to pay the 13th-month pay of employees on or before Dec. 24.
“Under PD 851, there is no exemption. But former DOLE Secretary Blas Ople came up with implementing rules and regulations (IRR), four days after Marcos signed PD 851, stating that exempted are in distress employers or companies,” he said.
Bello also clarified that Tuesday’s meeting with various sectors regarding the issue on the grant of 13th-month has yet to reach a conclusion.
“It’s not deadlock. The workers want their 13th-month pay since it’s what the law says while the employers would like to pay them but the businesses have yet to pick up, broke, according to them,” he added.
The meeting was held to discuss the issue of the exemption or deferment of the payment of 13th-month pay, and to identify the companies “in distress”.*PNA