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Philippine move to delay workers' bonuses draws flak

Bishop says traditional '13th month' salary payment is a matter of right

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Philippine move to delay workers' bonuses draws flak

Philippine workers call for a wage increase during a protest in Manila in this file photo. Moves to try and defer workers’ traditional yearly bonuses have been condemned by the church and labor groups. (Photo: Rene Sandajan)

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Moves by the Philippine Labor Department to defer workers’ yearly bonuses from companies suffering losses due to the coronavirus pandemic has met with opposition from labor groups and church authorities.

Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the government was looking at the possibility of letting struggling companies postpone the giving of the “13th month” bonus to Filipino workers.

The bonus is equivalent to one twelfth of an employee’s basic annual salary that employers from the private sector in the Philippines are required to pay rank-and-file employees.

“We are looking at the possibility of postponing the giving of the 13th month payment … for those companies who have negative revenue just to cushion the effect of the coronavirus pandemic,” Bello told reporters.

“Since businesses are not doing well and management cannot afford to give this money, they may defer it. That might be the more acceptable formula to address the issue.” 

Caritas chief Bishop Colin Bagaforo said deferring a legal bonus during the pandemic was a bad idea and not giving it to struggling employees adds insult to injury.

“It is a great injustice and inhuman to not give the 13th month pay at this time when many workers are affected financially by this pandemic,” Bishop Bagaforo said in a radio interview.

He said employees were entitled to the payment as a matter of right.

“The workers have suffered enough because of the pandemic. Let us not add to their suffering by taking away the pay afforded to them by law,” he said.

Left-wing group Anakbayan said the payment cannot be waived or canceled because it was safeguarded by law.

“It is a legally demandable right regardless of whether companies are losing money or not,” said spokesperson Alex Danday.

He also said the government should be thinking about how elected officials can ease the effects of the pandemic on workers instead of depriving them of their pay.

“Why don’t they [government officials] resolve not to be corrupt in order to help the people? They should rather pool their resources together to give Christmas bonuses to workers in private companies who have suffered enough,” Danday told UCA News.

Government workers have been receiving their full salaries since the pandemic began this year, he added.

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