Press Release
May 27, 2020

Villanueva: Workers must freely consent to temporary wage, benefits adjustment

Any initiative of employers to implement wage adjustment schemes to keep their enterprises afloat must be done with the consent of employees, who should be made fully aware of the move, according to Senator Joel Villanueva.

Villanueva said the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) should keep a close watch to ensure workers' rights are protected as some employers have resorted to scaling down on company benefits as most industries restarted their operations due to COVID-19.

"DOLE must ensure that any reduction in wages that would be implemented by employers should be according to the guidelines it issued earlier this month," Villanueva said in a statement. "More importantly, both employers and workers must agree to the terms together, and the latter should not be forced or coerced to decide."

Villanueva, who chairs the Senate labor committee, explained that employers are prohibited to make cuts on a worker's basic pay, under the principle of non-diminution of benefits under the Labor Code.

Employers may opt to slash allowances or other benefits stated in employment contracts or collective bargaining agreements for so long as employees are informed beforehand and voluntarily agree to the move. All agreements, which must be in writing, should not have a duration exceeding six months, according to the labor advisory issued last week.

"At this critical time, we appeal to both employers and workers to look out for each other. The only way we could overcome the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic is to align the interests of each other. Workers' welfare and dignity would always translate to the success of enterprises," Villanueva said.

Labor advisory no. 17, which DOLE released on May 18, also urged employers to adopt work-from-home arrangements and alternative work schemes to preserve jobs of workers. These arrangements must be reported to DOLE for documentation and proper monitoring.

Under the Telecommuting Law, a law that was principally authored and sponsored by Villanueva, telecommuting employees should have the same benefits as those of their counterparts in the office.

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