Businesses may be hard-pressed to get back on their collective feet, but the country’s workers are in the same dire straits, an official of the Association of Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) said Tuesday.
ALU-TUCP spokesperson Alan Tanjusay reiterated the group’s position that employers must ensure the payment of their workers’ 13th-month pay to help them weather the pandemic.
In an interview with Daily Tribune’s digital show Gising Na! simulcast on RJTV, Tanjusay said most workers have taken out loans against their 13-month pay to survive the implementation of hard lockdowns.
He said that the extra pay guaranteed by law will also come in handy in view of the hikes in the prices of fuel like gasoline, diesel and liquefied petroleum gas, as well as those of basic commodities.
“We understand that no one is spared from the difficulties that the current pandemic is bringing to our lives,” the labor leader said. “But the plight of workers is the most miserable as they are what we call “isang kahig, isang tuka” (hand-to-mouth existence).”
“In the case of inability to pay the 13th-month pay, the best resolution is (for business owners and workers) to talk to understand each other’s side,” he added.
The talks should include a timetable and points of agreement put in writing, the ALU-TUCP official said, adding that the government can step in to break any impasse or dead ends in the negotiations.
He said the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Department of Labor and Employment can mediate so the parties can come to an agreement.
Teodorico Toribio, a private-sector worker, said he’s not amenable to the 13th month being paid in installment, even if he has already advanced the same from his own employer.
“Nabale ko na iyong akin pero paano na yung sa iba nangutang at ang ipambabayad sana ay ‘yung 13th month nila (I’ve already taken mine, but how about those who had loaned money from others to be paid with their 13th month)?” Toribio asked.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, in a separate interview, stressed that employers should avail of micro-financing being offered by the government for ailing micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME).
Lopez said MSME in distress should apply for loans from government banking institutions to settle their obligations, not only to creditors but also to their workers.
The DTI chief said they have been pushing for the continued reopening of the economy to allow more businesses to reopen during the Christmas season.
On Monday, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion insisted that the downtrend in the number of Covid-19 cases in Metro Manila should be reason enough to downgrade the National Capital Region to Alert Level 2 or Alert Level 3 from Alert Level 4.
Concepcion has pushed for allowing businesses to operate at 50 percent of their capacity.
Tanjusay said their group still has reservations on Concepcion’s proposal to give more mobility and perks to vaccinated citizens, saying it may be discriminatory to those who want to be vaccinated but who are having a hard time securing the needed Covid-19 shots.
“Most customers and employees are more than willing to be vaccinated but the problem is, there is not enough supply of it, especially those in the neighboring provinces,” Tanjusay said.
“This will further weaken the economy, as workers will not be able to go to work if they are not fully vaccinated. Customers will not be given the chance to spend money also as they are barred from entering establishments because they lack vaccines,” he stressed.
He said that many of the 43 million Filipino workers are still unvaccinated.