THE Department of Labor and Employment has strongly urged private sector employees to get vaccinated against Covid-19, while affirming a policy barring discrimination against unvaccinated workers.
However, the presidential adviser on entrepreneurship said he is open to a pending measure in Congress mandating compulsory vaccination.
In Labor Advisory 8 dated May 1 and signed by Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III, the labor department said all employees in the private sector, except those who are ineligible or disqualified for health reasons, are highly encouraged to get inoculated with Covid-19 vaccine.
Meanwhile, Bello added employers shall continue to urge their respective employees to sign up for their vaccination program, if any, or their respective local government units.
The DOLE said employers shall also seek appropriate assistance from government agencies in the administration of Covid-19 vaccine.
Labor Undersecretary Benjo Santos Benavidez also clarified that the “no discrimination, no termination” policy shall still apply in the latest labor advisory.
In March, DOLE said in its Labor Advisory 03 that any employee who refuses or fails to be vaccinated shall not be discriminated against in terms of tenure, promotion, training, pay and other benefits, among others. He shall also not be terminated from employment. A “no vaccine, no work” policy shall also not be allowed.
Apart from this, the labor department has also said no cost of vaccination in the workplace shall be charged against or passed on directly or indirectly, to the employees.
On Monday night, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said 1.948 million vaccines have already been administered.
The country aims to administer 140 million vaccine doses this year to cover all 70 million adult Filipinos.
Concepcion open to forced vaccination
Meanwhile, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion is willing to support a bill seeking to make Covid-19 vaccination mandatory for the country to achieve herd immunity, but the employers’ umbrella organization flagged some legal concerns.
Concepcion said on Tuesday during a Laging Handa briefing that he will back House Bill 9252 if needed to ensure the Philippines attains herd immunity to ensure swift recovery for the economy.
The said bill aims to require the vaccination of individuals based on the recommendation of the Department of Health. The inoculation for said individuals will be administered without charges if ever.
“If we fail in this campaign to convince [our employees to get vaccinated]…we will support it [mandatory Covid-19 vaccination],” he said, noting that a low turnout of vaccination will also be a factor.
Concepcion has been pushing for the vaccination of the private sector, noting that AstraZeneca doses will arrive in June.
The shipments are seen to cater about 100 companies and conglomerates which ordered Covid-19 vaccines earlier.
Zuellig Pharma will be in-charge of storing the doses in its warehouse when they arrive, Concepcion explained. He said a logistics provider will also deliver the Covid-19 vaccines to the vaccination centers chosen by the company.
“The faster we implement, then we can stop this infection from going all over,” Concepcion said. “We are really pushing really hard to encourage every employee. It is your civic duty.”
Ecop: Forced jabs not feasible
Meanwhile, Employers Confederation of the Philippines President (Ecop) Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. said during the same briefing that making Covid-19 vaccination compulsory may not be “feasible” at all.
He said there might be a legal concern when individuals are being forced to get vaccinated against their will. “I think even the Constitution will be invoked on that,” the Ecop chief explained.
But Ortiz-Luis said that it may not be “too difficult” to persuade the population to be inoculated with Covid-19 doses as there are not many adverse reactions from the recipients here yet.
Some companies, he shared, are even asking how to be included in the Covid-19 prioritization list.
“At this point of time, kailan mo gagawing compulsory, eh, ni wala ngang bakuna [when can you make Covid-19 vaccination compulsory if there are no doses yet],” Ortiz-Luis added.
Recently, Concepcion launched the Let’s GO Bakuna Campaign to boost vaccine confidence among the Filipinos. The program aims to do this through vaccine education forums, webinars, town hall meetings and multi-platform information materials on the matter.
The initiative is backed by over 1,000 private sector companies.
“Vaccinating employees is the only solution that will allow us to return to work and open the economy,” Concepcion said in an earlier statement. “We can’t afford more lockdowns.”
In a separate statement on Tuesday, the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza) sought to include its locators and employees in the A4 priority group for Covid-19 vaccination as they are economic frontline workers.
“Peza-registered companies, ecozone and industry workers are considered frontline workers as they have continued working to ensure the unhampered service to contribute to the global supply chain,” Peza Director General Charito Plaza said.
The economic zone regulator manages 410 ecozones and 4,643 locator companies to date.
With Tyrone Jasper C. Piad