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Manila – The Institute for Labor Studies Executive successfully conducted its 8th episode of the Resilience in Stride webinar series with ““Jab or Job: Reconciling Vaccine Hesitancy and Management Prerogative: A Policy Forum on Vaccination and Health Policies in the Workplace in the Context of Labor Advisory 03-2021,” last December 7, 2021, via Zoom and was streamed live through the official ILS Facebook page.

Welcome Remarks were delivered by ILS Deputy Executive Director Atty. Mary Grace L. Riguer-Teodosio. Considering the legalities surrounding Labor Advisory 03-2021 and the constitutional rights of workers, Atty. Riguer remarked that, “there is a need to further clarify any possible untoward interpretation to these policies, taking into  consideration laws and jurisprudence applicable to all tripartite stakeholders especially from the purview of employers, employees, and labor relations managers.”

A special message from Assistant Secretary and Concurrent Director of the Bureau of Working Conditions Ma. Teresita S. Cucueco, MD, was delivered by Engr. Kristine Carol S. Ramos.

Engr. Ramos, OIC the BWC’s Program Management and Technical Support Services Division shared that the discussion is timely important and critical “as its far-reaching impact on employment greatly contribute to safely and steadily restarting economic activities, with the immediate impact of bridging the employment gap by making sure that our employees are well protected and function properly under enhanced working conditions and businesses can operate safety.”

The forum proper was headed by Undersecretary Benjo Santos M. Benavidez, who gave a robust discussion of an “Overview and Discussion of DOLE Guidelines on the Administration of COVID 19 Vaccines in the Workplace (LA 03-2021).”

Undersecretary Benavidez stressed that vaccination administration should be consistent with the guidelines consistent issued by DOH and IATF and that no cost should be charged to the employees.” “To be safe, we have to get our employees vaccinated and adhere to the minimum public protocols.”

Dr. Rontgene M Solante, MD, Head of the Adult Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine of San Lazaro Hospital, presented the discussion on, “Efficacy of COVID-19 Vaccines and addressing Vaccine Hesitancy in the Workplace.”

In his presentation, Dr. Solante gave a scientific approach to addressing the issue. “According to WHO, variants and concerns affect vaccines and these may cause efficacy reduction. In the US, Vaccinated people got infection and less symptom; unvaccinated, however got infection and severe symptom. Factors affecting breakthrough infections can be observed six months after the 2nd dose. Such factors are decreasing efficacy, vaccine type injected, variants concern, and the immune system. A study found out that in just a span of 3 months, efficacy of the vaccine is decreasing. Thus, a booster shot is important to increase immune system against COVID-19 and to prevent hospitalization.”

For the policy forum, the Institute convened a distinguished panel of reactors representing members of the tripartite sector: Atty. Bryan Orville R. Cipres, Labor Relations Manager of Coca-Cola Beverages Philippines, Inc., Mr. Arturo “Butch” Guerrero III, Governor of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines, and Atty. Jose ‘Sonny’ Matula, President of the Federation of Free Workers.

“We have to seek the help of the union leaders so that they can advise their members to get vaccinated. Management is not the enemy, rather the virus so we must protect each other,” pointed out by Atty. Cipres.

Mr. Guerrero added that employers have the right not to accept unvaccinated applicants but if the concerned citizen is already an employee, then he/she is not required but should be highly encouraged to be vaccinated. “Employers should give employees the opportunity to explain because there might be a valid reason why they don’t want to get vaccinated and that they shouldn’t be terminated due to refusal of vaccination.”

As for the workers, Atty. Matula agrees “that vaccination is voluntarily and not required. Workers should not be penalized if they are unvaccinated.” However, they should also not be the one to pay for the RT-PCR tests. He also proposed that if the employees cannot pay for the expenses, then perhaps the government can shoulder it.” He urged for the government to, “give enough support to the workers for them to be safe.”

The episode was conceptualized by Atty. Tecelyn B. Maramag, Senior Labor and Employment Officer from the Institute’s Advocacy and Publications Division, who also served as host and moderator for the event.

You can view the full episode via this link: Jab or Job: Vaccine Hesitancy in the Workplace Webinar