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Labor force insist on 13th-month pay as deferment contemplated

The labor force is opposing the government's plan to allow exemptions on the payment of the mandatory 13th-month pay even as the business sector says some firms cannot afford to pay the benefit.

According to the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), the 13th-month pay should be given out to employees, as mandated by the law.

"Itinuturing natin na accrued na o earned na ng mga manggagawa since January 1, 2020 this year up to this time," said Associated Labor Unions-TUCP spokesperson Allan Tanjusay in a report on GMA's "24 Oras Weekend" on Sunday.

This comes as the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that are "in distress" can be exempted from paying out the 13th-month pay.

Micro enterprises are defined as those with total assets worth less than P50,000; cottage enterprises with assets worth P50,001 to P500,000; small with P500,001 to P5 million; and medium from over P5 million to P20 million.

According to the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), micro firms cannot afford the 13th-month pay given the difficulties of business amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"'Yung mga micro, 'di kaya talaga eh. Maraming mawawalan ng trabaho kapag piniga natin nang piniga 'yung mga micro na 'yan at hindi natin tinulungan," said ECOP chairman Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr.

For his part, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III reiterated that firms are still mandated to give out 13th-month pay to their employees.

"I would like to assure 'yung ating mga workers that in line with PD 851, 13th-month pay should be paid on or before December 25, that is the provision of PD 851," he said.

Under Presidential Decree 851, employers are mandated to pay all their employees a 13th month pay not later than December 24 of every year.

On Saturday, Bello said that the deferment of the 13th month can be agreed upon by the employers and their employees through a dialogue. — Jon Viktor Cabuenas/DVM, GMA News