Labor groups questioned the legality of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) protocols barring unvaccinated employees from working in areas with high alert levels.
They raised the issue after the Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III defended in a television interview last Thursday the IATF policy, which allows only vaccinated employees to serve in restaurants and spas and other similar establishments in areas under Alert Level 3.
Bello said IATF guidelines even enable employers to fire workers, who will refuse to get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
“Such an exemption is highly questionable. The law speaks that vaccination is not mandatory,” Federation of Free Workers (FFW) President Sonny Matula said in a statement,
“This recognition that some employers can exercise ‘no vaccine, no work’ is not only contrary to existing laws of voluntary vaccination but also unreasonable,” he added.
Labor group have cited DOLE Labor Advisory No. 03-21 and Republic Act 11525 or the “Act Establishing the Covid-19 Vaccination Program Expediting the Vaccine Procurement and Administration Process” as the basis of the illegality of a “no vaccine, no work policy.”
RA 11525 states that vaccine cards “shall not be considered as an additional mandatory requirement for education, employment, and other similar government transaction purposes.”
For his part, TUCP President Raymond Mendoza also called out Bello for his supposed wrongfully interpreting the IATF guidelines for Alert Level system.
“[There is] nothing in guidelines on Alert Level 3, [which] says unvaccinated workers can be fired. It is really wrong for Secretary Bello to say so,” Mendoza said.
Under the IATF guidelines on the implementation of Alert Level System (ALS) issued last week, certain establishments like restaurants, cinemas and recreational venues will be allowed to operate under Alert Level 3 provided the employees of the said establishment are fully vaccinated.
It did not include any provision about the possible retrenchment of unvaccinated workers.
When asked for clarification on his televised pronouncements, Bello said that the IATF guidelines itself is a sufficient legal basis for the vaccination requirement for workers in specific sectors.
“There is no legal basis for a mandatory vaccination for all workers. The IATF resolution is only for some businesses like restaurants and spas, which are allowed dine-in service or in-person services provided that their employees are vaccinated,” Bello said.
“The legal basis of restaurants and spas and other similar establishments is the resolution of the IATF,” he added.