NCR wage board defers pay hike talk indefinitely on Covid crisis

MINIMUM-wage earners in Metro Manila may have to wait until after the Covid-19 crisis before they can get a pay hike.

This after members of the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board-National Capital Region (RTWPB-NCR) unanimously decided to indefinitely defer their stakeholder consultations and public hearing for the pending wage petition filed by Unity for Wage Increase Now
(U-WIN) on November 25, 2019.

U-WIN, which includes several labor groups, including Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), is seeking to increase the minimum-wage rate in NCR by P213.

RTWPB-NCR Sarah S. Mirasol said they decided to postpone the possible wage increase as most companies struggle to cope with the business disruptions caused by the community quarantine that the government imposed to contain Covid-19 in March.

“There are some establishments, which have yet to open even up to now,” Mirasol told BusinessMirror in a phone interview.

The RTWPB-NCR secretariat said it only informed representatives of U-WIN via e-mail of the postponement on May 21, 2020.

Job preservation

The labor official disclosed the measure aims to prioritize job preservation since the RTWPB-NCR is concerned that increasing minimum wages in NCR this time could trigger mass displacements.

She noted the RTWPB-NCR will continue to monitor the socioeconomic situation in the jurisdiction to decide when they could resume tackling a possible wage hike.

Among the factors which they will consider, Mirasol said, is the unemployment rate in NCR as well as the state of national emergency in the country.

Currently, the existing minimum-wage rate in NCR, which ranges from P500 to P537, is the highest

‘Unfair’ development

KMU Secretary-General Jerome Adonis called the development “unfair” for workers, many of whom, he pointed out were unable to work for  three months because of the community quarantine in NCR.

“This is an additional burden for workers and their families at a time of the pandemic. It is unfair since this [wage hike] should have been the assistance of workers, who are now suffering [because of Covid-19],” Adonis said.

He, however, disclosed that they understand that some companies, particularly micro, small, and medium enterprises, may be unable to afford the pay hike.

“That is why we are proposing these micro, small and medium enterprises should be given aid by the government so that they adapt [to the Covid crisis] so they will not have to resort to laying off and cutting wages of their workers,” Adonis told
BusinessMirror in a phone interview.

Although KMU considers the P213-wage petition nonnegotiable, he admitted other members of U-WIN may consider lowering the amount because of the crisis.

“I will raise this issue during our next meeting,” Adonis said.

Fluid situation

For his part, Employers Confederation of the Philippines (Ecop) Chairman Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. supported the Metro Manila wage board decision amid the “fluid” business situation, which left many firms on the brink of closure.

“How can companies afford it when they are now reducing [their workers]. Some even have employees, who cannot even go back to work or cannot even up their operations,” Ortiz-Luis said.

Instead of the additional pay, he said companies are now preoccupied with how to retain their workers.

The deferment of any pay hike should continue until such time that majority of workers will be allowed to return to work, he said, adding, “I don’t think this will happen in a week or two.”

Last, he said also another reason for the postponement is the existing restrictions, which will prevent RTWPB-NCR from holding onsite of wage-related consultations and hearings. He noted such complicated and sensitive process cannot be done effectively via online conference.



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