Southern Tagalog workers clamor for speedy, timely distribution of 13th month pay

Dandy Miguel, Pamantik-KMU vice chairperson, highlights the plight of Southern Tagalog workers in this time of pandemic during a protest action Oct. 21.

Providing workers with their “bare minimum government mandated benefits” is not enough to solve the crisis workers are facing.

By JUSTIN UMALI
Bulatlat.com

SANTA ROSA, Laguna – Workers from the Southern Tagalog region are demanding that corporations follow Department of Labor and Employment regulations and provide 13th month pay “sooner rather than later” as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect millions.

According to labor federation Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan (Pamantik-KMU), some corporations are still threatening to give 13th month pay at the last possible moment, or even not at all.

“Because of the pandemic, workers, especially those working for micro, small, and medium enterprises, see 13th month pay as more of a necessity than a benefit,” said Dandy Miguel, vice chairperson of Pamantik-KMU. “It’s DOLE and the Duterte government’s responsibility to ensure that workers are compensated.”

The labor group cited DOLE’s lackluster performance in providing social amelioration to the country’s almost 10 million workforce coupled with the rising number of COVID-19 cases, a significant portion of which affected workers in Laguna and Cavite.

Pamantik-KMU also pointed out that DOLE was clear in its labor advisory, which stated that no exemptions from 13th month pay or deferment of payment will be accepted and allowed.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III signed the advisory after initially stating that part of the implementing rules and regulations of Presidential Decree 851 exempted “distressed” employers from providing 13th month pay.

13th month ‘not enough’

Miguel stated however that providing workers with their “bare minimum government mandated benefits” is not enough to solve the crisis workers are facing.

“A lot of workers were disenfranchised for months because of the pandemic,” he said. “Some of them couldn’t make ends meet to pay for rent, or to feed their families. Many were forced to go to work without adequate health and safety standards.”

According to Pamantik-KMU, workers in Calabarzon, and Laguna province in particular, were some of the “hardest hit” by the pandemic.

Incidents of COVID-19 were reported from workers in Nidec Philippines, Gardenia Bakeries Philippines, Inc., F. Tech Philippines Manufacturing, Inc., Alaska Milk Corporation, Coca-Cola FEMSA Santa Rosa, Imasen Philippine Manufacturing Corporation, Technol Eight Philippines Corporation, Optodev Inc., Interphil Laboratories, Edward Keller Philippines, Toshiba Philippines, and Nexperia Philippines – all in Laguna.

Aside from the rising number of cases of COVID-19, workers were also affected by “blatantly anti-worker policies from DOLE.”

“If we will recall from the beginning, Bello issued advisories that worked in favor of the capitalists,” said Miguel, referring to Labor Advisories 9 and 17, which allowed for “flexible work arrangements and retrenchment of workers because capitalists are affected by the lockdown.”

The labor leader also pointed out that DOLE continues to be silent on the issue of harassment and threats against unionists and workers.

In the past few months, reports of red-tagging and harassment plagued workers in Southern Tagalog. In more than one case, workers were forcibly taken from their shifts to army and police camps to be interrogated or presented to the media as “New People’s Army surrenderees.”

“If Bello really stood on the side of the worker,” he said, “not only would he condemn these attacks, but he would redouble efforts to provide relief aid to workers and small businesses.” ()

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