December 1, 2021

The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) manifests our support for Makabayan Bloc’s House Resolution 2210 and 2309 or the Measures Seeking to Investigate the Reported Illegal Implementation of “No Vaccine, No Pay” Policies. 

Indeed, there is no question that vaccination provides both a scientific and humanitarian-based approach in addressing a pandemic health crisis and is a crucial step towards economic and social rehabilitation. 

Direct government oversight of the COVID-19 Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases Resolutions (IATF) and Department of Health (DOH) is critical for the effective implementation of the country’s national immunization program under RA 11525 along with proper enforcement of existing mandatory health and safety protocols. However, they must also ensure that the programs and policies they create and implement respect the constitutionally-guaranteed rights of the people.  

Last  November 11, the IATF released Resolution 148-B and takes effect today, December 1. The resolution was crafted without consultation and without the basic studies on the reasons behind those who are unvaccinated. Furthermore, information drive about vaccines remain poor and inaccessible to many, especially to those in provinces and those who lack access to the internet or social media, which can be one of the main reasons for vaccine hesitancy.

This IATF Resolution, despite efforts to deny that it is equal to “mandatory vaccination,” is basically a “no vaccine, no work, no pay” policy. It explicitly violates fundamental workers’ rights such as right to equal work opportunities, security of tenure, right against discrimination and freedom of choice. 

It also goes against recent pronouncements of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) against mandatory vaccination and Labor Advisory 03 s2021 which explicitly says that “No vaccine, no work policy shall not be allowed.” Furthermore, it goes against Republic Act 11525 or the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021 that ensures that vaccination cards must not be used as requirement for employment. 

IATF Resolution 148-B also poses an additional burden to Filipino workers who have been taking most of the brunt of the pandemic. On top of the wages they lost, additional costs for transportation, health and the soaring prices of basic commodities, they are now given additional burden of covering for their own regular RT-PCR tests to report to work. 

This passes the burden to individuals especially the workers and absolve the government from its responsibilities in this pandemic despite the increasing loans and budget. From the onset of the pandemic the people have been clamoring for mass testing, strengthening of the health system, massive information campaign on vaccination and efficient vaccine rollout. These are the things that the IATF must concentrate on addressing and not simply resort to use of coercion. 

We reiterate that CTUHR is not against vaccines and protection of all, but imposing or forcing unvaccinated workers to be vaccinated is unjust and inhumane.  

The implementation of this resolution still reflects the militaristic nature of the IATF which implements harsh and unfounded mandatory requirements towards addressing the pandemic instead of scientific, medical, and rights-based solutions. 

Since August of this year, we have already been receiving reports of workers being forced to get vaccinated and those who refused got dismissed from their jobs. Based on our monitoring, since the release of this resolution, unvaccinated workers are distraught and at a loss. They have varying reasons why they are still unvaccinated. Some are victims of widely circulated anti-vaccine propaganda and lack of access to accurate information; some are tied with their religious beliefs; some are afraid because of pre-existing medical conditions and some have gotten tired of waiting for their turn to be vaccinated. All these factors affect the vaccine hesitancy of the people. And they cannot be addressed by use of force, but by tireless education and campaign. 

As early as today, we have monitored ecozones such as those in the Freeport Area of Bataan that have started strict implementation of this resolution. Unvaccinated workers are being asked to sign “Voluntary Forced Leave Forms” and face threats of termination in two (2) weeks to three (3) months. 

This kind of policies implemented during the pandemic give such irony to the government’s campaign of “We Heal as One.” How can we heal as one if the government continues to implement policies that suppress the rights and livelihood of the people?

All factors considered, CTUHR strongly calls for the immediate scrapping of the IATF Resolution 148-B. One more day that it is implemented is equivalent to one more day that a number of workers and their families will be deprived of their livelihood.