Working on the field has never been a problem for 34 year old Neljon Q. Jimenez. Despite the heat, the risks and the occasional mild altercations with clients who cannot afford to pay their monthly dues, Neljon was content with being a collector and credit investigator for a local appliance center in Zamboanga City.

With 3 kids ages 9, 5 and barely a month, Neljon is the only one supporting the family with his meager income. With his common law wife not being able to return to work immediately as a saleslady, Neljon had to carry the brunt of financially supporting his family on one income.

But it is a different story when wages are not increasing, and the deductions to his salary are endless, coupled with company sales not doing too well.

These reasons prompted him to resign from his job and that was when the problem started – the company was not able to give him his last pay, cash bond and 13th month pay.

“I waited for more than a month for them to release my money claims but to no avail. They kept telling me to wait saying that only one person is processing the claims and that a lot of employees are resigning. I decided to visit the DOLE Office in Sta. Catalina to ask for advice and assistance,” Neljon shares.

Neljon filed a request for assistance under the Labor Department’s Single Entry Approach program or most commonly known as SENA. SENA Desk Officer Sabino T. Romero, Jr. assisted him that day where he requested payment of money claims from the company he worked for.

“I provided the desk officer with the contact number of the branch manager. Mr. Romero scheduled a conference with the manager on August 10, 2022,” he said.

During the conference, it was agreed that the company will pay the amount of 12, 283 pesos to Neljon representing final pay covering the period of June 15 to July 15, 2022, prorated 13th month pay and employees savings fund refund for the period of October 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022.

Finally, on August 30, 2022, Neljon received the money claims at the DOLE 9 Operations Center.

“I am thankful to DOLE and to Mr. Romero because he really went out of his way to help me. The process was smooth. I saved half of the money I received and used the other half to purchase construction materials for our home,” Neljon shares.

Neljon’s situation is unfortunately too common in the labor force. In Zamboanga Peninsula Region alone, 178 RFAs were filed in various DOLE offices praying for money claims payment. SENA desk Officers were able to settle all these requests benefitting 267 workers accumulating Php 4.2 million in monetary benefits.

DOLE 9 regional director Atty. Roy L. Buenafe shares that the labor department is doing all it can.

“The agency is steadfast in its mandate of inspecting establishments in the region to ensure that workers rights and welfare are upheld. Through labor inspection, may it be routine or complaint, we are doing our utmost best in ensuring that labor standards are complied with,” he said.

To date, a total of 2,002 establishments in region 9 have been inspected with an 88% compliance rate on general labor standards and 93.70% rate for occupational safety and health (COVID-19).

However, for aggrieved worker, union, group of workers, or employer, RD Buenafe recommends clients to visit the nearest DOLE office and file a request for assistance under the SENA program.

The SENA program is an administrative approach to provide a speedy, impartial, inexpensive, and accessible settlement procedure of all labor issues or conflicts to prevent them from ripening into full-blown disputes or actual labor cases.
As a form of conciliation-mediation intervention, the main objective is to effect amicable settlement of the dispute among the differing parties wherein a neutral party, the SEnA Desk Officer (SEADO), assists the parties by giving advice, or offering solutions and alternatives to the problems.

Labor dispute issues that may be settled through SEnA include, among others, termination or suspension of employment issues; claims for any sum of money, regardless of amount; intra-union and inter-union issues, after exhaustion of administrative remedies; unfair labor practices; closures, retrenchments, redundancies, temporary lay-offs; OFW cases; and any other claims or issues arising from employer-employee relationship (except for occupational safety and health standards, involving imminent danger situation, dangerous occurrences /or disabling injury, and/or absence of personal protective equipment). END/Karen Claire Q. Grafia, Labor Information Officer