The Church’s Teaching on Wage
The Catholic Church always upholds the right of workers to a just wage. The workers have human dignity since they are created in the image and likeness of God. And as creatures of God with dignity, they are entitled to the fruits of their labor through a prompt and just salary. The great Pope Leo XIII has this to say:
The following duties…concern rich men [women] and employees: Workers are not to be treated as slaves: justice demands that the dignity of human personality be respected in them, ennobled as it has been through what we call the Christian character. If we hearken to natural reason and to Christian philosophy, gainful occupations are not a mark of shame to man, but rather of respect, as they provide him [or her]with an honorable means of supporting life (Rerum Novarum, n.20).
In the Philippines, as well as in other countries, the following 3 labor practices are always considered by the Church as violations of the right of workers to a just and moral wage:
1.Delaying Release of Salary or Overtime Pay
Complying with the moral and legal demands of a just wage does not only entail giving the right amount of wage and social benefits to the employees. It also includes the prompt payment of wage and benefits. “A just wage is the legitimate fruit of work. To refuse or withhold it can be a grave injustice” (CCC, n. 2434). Wage as the only means of the worker to respond to God’s call to sustain one’s family and participate in the divine plan.
Unjustified delay in the release of wage is highly immoral, more so if the such wage is badly needed by the worker. This contrary to the teaching of the CST and a violation of commutative justice which dictates that workers must be given what is due to them corresponding to the value of the labor rendered to the employer as stipulated in the employment contract (Cf. Peschke 1978: 217). Even the Labor Code in the Philippines decrees that salaries must be paid promptly twice a month. It is untenable if a worker cannot receive his monthly salary on time for a flimsy reason that s/he lack a minor requirement, or if s/he has complied s/he still has to wait for the next payday to receive it. There are some companies which do not release wages on time. In some instances, some of these firms accumulate interests from these withheld wages at the expense of the employees.
2.Delay or Non-Payment of Overtime Pay
One of the many complaints of workers against their employers is the delay or non-payment of overtime pay for the work done beyond their regular hours. As defined by the Labor Code of the Philippines, “regular hour” is the whole time when an employee is required to be on duty in his/her workstation not exceeding 8 hours per day (Art. 84), while “overtime” is defined as work performed beyond an employee’s regular duty hours of 8 hours in a day (Art. 87). Overtime pay is the payment of the extra hours of work rendered by the employee beyond the regular hours in a day (Art. 83). The law only mandates one whole day per week as a rest day. Thus, if an employee works during his/her rest day, s/he is entitled to a premium pay or a pay for a day’s work performed by the worker on his/her rest day (Art. 93) And if s/he works beyond 8 hours on this day, s/he is also entitled to an overtime pay.
In Catholic institutions, overtime work cannot be presumed to be work done out of charity or part of worker’s service to the Church and thus salary must be waived. If an employee is asked to work beyond the regular hours of work by the employer or by his/her representative, s/he is entitled to an overtime pay by virtue of commutative justice, and this wage must be given promptly during his/she regular payday or on the agreed period. In many instances, the workers are too timid or afraid to demand what is owed to them by law in front of religious or cleric managers. Thus, Catholic administrators, driven by their social conscience, must be sensitive to the needs of their workers and come up with clear guidelines and implementing mechanisms on overtime pay to promote the interest of labor. Unless voluntary on the part of the employee, extra work requires extra pay.
3.Delay or Non-Remittance of Dues for Social Benefits
One common complaint of workers in the Philippines is that their employers did not remit their monthly premiums or contributions to the Social Security System (SSS) or Government Social Insurance System (GSIS), PAG-IBIG or PhilHealth as mandated by law. Others intentionally delay the remittance of these contributions presumably using workers’ money for other selfish motives. The effect of these non-remittance or delay in remittance is denial or delay of the delivery of the benefits or services from these institutions to the workers. In particular, the employees cannot avail of loans and other benefits because of this problem caused by the employer.
Church’s Teaching on the right to Work and Wage
“While work, in all its many senses, is an obligation, that is to say a duty, it is also a source of rights on the part of the worker” (Laborem Exercens, n. 72). The right to work is a moral or a God-given right and no one can take away this right from him or her. However, he or she has “the responsibility not to hinder others from having their own part of God’s gift; indeed, he [or she] must cooperate with others so that together all can dominate the earth” (CA, n. 31).
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