DOLE thumbs down 13th month pay deferment

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    WORKERS can now heave a sigh of relief as the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) yesterday ruled out the possibility of deferring payment or exempting employers from paying their personnel’s 13th month bonus.

    In a televised press briefing, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the DOLE will not approve of any deferment or exemptions in the 13th month bonus payout.

    “We will not postpone, we will not defer, we will not give an exemption to the payment of the 13th month pay,” said Bello, adding he will soon issue an order that will lay down guidelines for the release of the annual incentive.

    “The law says pay the workers the 13th month pay on or before December 24. That is what DOLE will implement,” he also said.

    The announcement comes after days of uncertainty surrounding the payment of the 13th month additional benefit brought about by the fragile economic condition of the government and private businesses due to the continued coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

    The Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) had said that several companies may be unable to provide 13th month pay to their employees after suffering massive losses amid the health crisis.

    The labor sector, in response, opposed such a scenario saying the 13th month pay is made mandatory by Presidential Decree No. 851.

    And in a bid to ensure the full provision of the 13th month pay, even by micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), the labor chief said they plan to push through with the proposal to have it subsidized by the government.

    In addition, he said they are also working for the possibility of making bank loans accessible to businesses.

    “We requested to Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez if it is possible to provide subsidy to employers categorized as MSMEs or the opportunity to get loans from our banks,” said Bello. “Those are the two options.”

    Labor groups immediately welcomed DOLE’s announcement as they can already be assured of getting their 13th month pay.

    “The working people are happy and thankful to Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello for breaking the 13th month pay payment deadlock by its decision today to heed their appeal to disallow the deferment of payment and give exemptions to the payment of 13th month pay of employees this year,” said Associated Labor Unions (ALU) vice president Gerard Seno.

    “This is definitely a good news to millions of employees, who were demoralized these past two weeks upon knowing that their 13th month pay payment might be deferred or altogether scrapped,” added Seno.