Addt’l budget needed for wage subsidy to preserve employment, DOLE says

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 1) — The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is pushing for additional 2021 budget to fund its wage subsidy program that will prevent employers from terminating their workers.

At Thursday's budget deliberation of the Senate Committee on Finance for the Labor Department’s proposed budget, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the original budget of about P70 billion included a program for work preservation. This was scratched, however, and the DOLE was only given P27 billion by the Budget Department.

“Under that program, we have a wage subsidy program for employers," Bello explained. "This is a program where the employers are requested not to terminate their workers on condition that we will provide them a subsidy in the payment of salary.”

Bello said this should have been a long-term program for the preservation of work.

During the plenary deliberations on Wednesday, Quezon Rep. David Suarez also asked for the restoration of P40 billion in the department’s budget that will provide emergency employment to three million Filipinos amid the pandemic.

Bello also told senators that the employers group has requested to extend the six-month period for the temporary suspension of workers since they are not yet ready to rehire them.

The secretary said an advisory about this will be issued next week. He noted that he is inclined to grant this request, but by only three months to maintain the employment status of workers.

Under Article 301 of the Labor Code, the suspension of a business’ operation for a period not exceeding six months shall not terminate employment. Employers must reinstate employees to their former position not later than one month from resumption of operation.

Meanwhile, Sen. Joel Villanueva questioned the department’s 2021 budget allotment for its emergency employment programs that he described as band aid solutions. He asked if the department has programs that will ensure beneficiaries more sustainable forms of employment especially during this time of the pandemic.

Labor Assistant Secretary Nikki Tutay said the DOLE has tweaked the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers program, or TUPAD, to ensure that beneficiaries will be equipped with skills needed in the labor market.

The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that unemployment rate in July was at 10 percent, which means some 4.6 million Filipinos were out of work. This is down from 17.7 percent in April as the country slowly resumes economic activity, it said.