No jab, no Christmas bonus!
That's according to a city mayor in the Philippines who is pressuring staff members to get vaccinated against COVID-19. At stake is an extra 20,000 pesos, or roughly US$400, in cash given as a year-end reward to all workers.
The caveat: for all employees to receive their share of the incentive, every single one of the 5,000 employees of Cebu City Hall must be vaccinated. Leave anyone out and the entire workforce will lose the bonus – even employees who have already been immunised.
"Vaccination is the way to liberation," said Michael Rama, acting mayor of Cebu, a major city about 570 kilometres outside of Metro Manila.
"Once liberation is attained, freedom will reign. But everyone should practise freedom with responsibility," Rama said during a flag-raising ceremony of public-sector workers this week.
"We want to serve as good examples to the rest of the Cebuanos and reach at least a 70% vaccination rate to attain herd immunity. Currently, we are at a 50% vaccination rate and we are working hard to achieve our goal of reaching 70%," the mayor said.
Achieving that milestone would also mean the possibility of lifting the city's curfew, which runs from 11:30 p.m. to 4 a.m.
The Cebu City measure appears more like a penalty than a reward and comes amid a debate last month about whether employers could also withold the pay of their staff.
The Philippines' Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello III said businesses can now refuse to pay the salary of employees who remain unvaccinated – a policy that Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra contests.
"There is a law – the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021 – that expressly states that vaccination cards shall not be a mandatory requirement for employment (both for recruitment and maintenance of employment), among others," Guevarra said, as quoted by Rappler.