by Louella Desiderio (The Philippine Star), 17 Aug 2021
MANILA, Philippines — The Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) said it would be difficult for most businesses, particularly micro enterprises, to advance the 13th month pay of employees amid challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The majority cannot advance (the pay). They are struggling,” ECOP president Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. said in an interview with radio dzRH yesterday.
He said the majority of businesses in the country are micro enterprises and last year, many of them found it difficult to provide the 13th month pay.
Even with loans being made available for businesses, he said many do not want to avail of it for fear of an added obligation.
“When we campaigned last year to advance [13th month pay], almost everyone followed. This time, I don’t know. Many are really struggling,” he said.
Some businesses released 13th month payments in advance last year to help tide workers over the pandemic.
While the ECOP is against lockdowns, Ortiz-Luis said the group would have no choice but to comply should the government decide to extend the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) imposed in Metro Manila.
The ECQ, in effect in Metro Manila until Aug. 20, is meant to control the spread of the virus, particularly the more transmissible Delta variant.
Ortiz-Luis said both employers and employees are suffering from the imposition of lockdowns and that the cash aid being provided by the government during the ECQ is not enough.
To address the ongoing pandemic, he said it is necessary to accelerate the rollout of vaccines.
Immunization in jobsites
With the detection of new and more COVID variants nationwide, workers yesterday demanded vaccination in worksites and poor communities.
“The hospitals with a critical level of occupancy are rising, and we don’t want to see workers and their families left with no choice but to stay at their homes while infected, unable to find a vacancy at a proper facility. The best protection the people can have would be to get access to vaccines,” Alliance of Nationalist Genuine and Labor Organization-Kilusang Mayo Uno (ANGLO- KMU) said in a statement.
The group said the government should hold vaccination in worksites to prevent large gatherings of people.
“The government must prioritize small and medium enterprises that do not have the resources like multinational corporations. The SMEs are severely affected by the ECQ and the pandemic in general. Many workers in SMEs are facing wage reduction due to job rotation schemes,” ANGLO president Gilbert Escueta said.
If the government gives priority to workers and SMEs, Escueta said they could help deliver essential goods and services needed during ECQ.
Escueta further called on the government to conduct vaccination in export processing zones and industrial hubs where the large concentration of workers in worksites makes them super spreaders.
“Workers are already extremely apprehensive for their health and safety, but they also have to contend with the fear of being laid off if they do not get vaccinated. Many workers are desperate to get vaccinated for this reason. Government should ensure that there are enough vaccines for workers, especially those who report for work every day despite the lockdown,” Escueta stressed.
Online grievance desks
A senior administration lawmaker from the House of Representatives has proposed the creation of what he called an “online grievance desk” where Filipino indigent citizens can directly file their complaints if they failed to receive cash assistance.
“This innovative approach will definitely help eliminate the need for people to go to the disbursement centers and undergo a tedious process of verification,” Rep. Alfred Vargas said, predicting this would somehow avert corruption in the fund distribution process.
The Quezon City congressman, chairman of the House social welfare committee, maintained that this is ideal in the sense that such portal will be handling complaints and concerns regarding the disbursement of cash aid from the government.
Citing the Quezon City model instituted by Mayor Joy Belmonte, Vargas also said this “would minimize physical contact, especially in view of the highly contagious nature of the Delta variant.”
At the same time, he also lauded the move of Quezon City and other local governments to post the list of cash aid recipients on its official Facebook account. – Mayen Jaymalin, Delon Porcalla