Proposed ₧750-daily wage gains ground

THE regional wage board in the National Capital Region (NCR) said it is now tapping the Department of Energy (DOE) in its review of a wage petition filed in 2019.

Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board-National Capital Region (RTWPB-NCR) Chairman Sarah B. Mirasol said they will be conducting the formal assessment on March 22.

Mirasol told the BusinessMirror they “have been reviewing socio-economic indicators by inviting resource persons from” the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Department of Health, Department of Trade and Industry and recently from the Department of Energy.

She issued the statement after Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III instructed last Wednesday the regional boards to start reviewing pending wage petitions following the recent spike in oil prices.

Last year, the RTWPB-NCR deferred once again tackling the P750-wage proposal filed in 2019 by the Unity for Wage Increase Now (Uwin), which is comprised by 10 labor groups and advocates. Discussion on Uwin’s proposal was deferred after government imposed restrictions to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

The restriction prevented the wage board from conducting the needed stakeholder consultation and public hearing, which is necessary for reviewing a wage petition.

Another petition

THE last wage order issued by the RTWPB-NCR was in 2018, which raised the daily minimum wage in NCR to P500 (about $9.50 at 2018 exchange rates) to P537 ($10.20)—the highest minimum wage rate nationwide.

Data from the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) showed that the “real” value of the P537 minimum wage in NCR, after adjustment for inflation, is at P494.02 as of last month.

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) said it is set to file a new wage petition in NCR on March 14.

TUCP Vice President Luis C. Corral said they will be announcing the amount of their wage petition after they file it at the RTWPB-NCR in Manila.

Economic boost

BUSINESS leaders expressed concern over the impact of a new round of minimum wage hike to businesses, particularly micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), which are still reeling from the impact of the pandemic in the last two years.

They noted raising wages could lead to the eventual closure of more establishments, which may be unable to shoulder the additional expense.

Partido Manggagawa (PM) contradicted the said assertion by business leaders by stating the additional pay will actually help boost the economy.

“The economic slump is not an argument against a pay increase. Instead it is a reason to provide money to consumers through a wage hike. Boosting the purchasing power of consumers—especially lowly paid workers who spend most of their take-home pay compared to high income earners—will pump prime the economy and lead to the revival of MSME’s,” PM Secretary-General Judy Miranda was quoted in a statement as saying.

The PM is demanding for P100 across-the-board legislated wage increase from the government.

Solons’ discussion

Amid calls for wage hike, the House Committee on Labor and Employment will convene this week to resume deliberations on the proposal amending the Labor Code of the Philippines to institutionalize a national minimum wage for private sector workers.

House Committee on Labor and Employment Chairman Enrico A. Pineda said the meeting of his committee will be held on Thursday, March 17, at 1:30 p.m.

“It’s high time we raise the minimum wage, considering the rising costs of goods and the effects of the pandemic,” Pineda said.

House Bills (HB) 246, 276, 541, 668, 2878, 6668 and 6752 all propose to amend the Labor Code of the Philippines to institutionalize a national minimum wage for private sector.

“The cost of goods is not different in all places around the country; a primary reason for making wages higher in larger cities in Metro Manila. That reason is barely evident now since malls have been popping up in provinces, offering the same goods for the same prices, and with the rising gasoline prices, which is even more expensive outside Metro Manila. The effect of the rising gas prices is that everything also goes up, “the lawmaker explained. “Further, additional expenses are now necessary due to the pandemic. People need to buy masks, vitamins, disinfecting materials, and spend on testing. How do we expect our workers to keep up without any increase in their salaries?”

The bills were initially discussed by the Committee on Labor and Employment on February 2020, before the onset of the pandemic in the Philippines and the implementation of community quarantines. However, no agreement was reached because several issues still needs further discussion, according to Pineda.

For his part, House Ways and Means Chairman Joey Sarte Salceda said that the country’s minimum wage “is severely, almost embarrassingly unprepared for price hikes to come this year,” noting that 2022 will be the fifth year that there were no hikes in minimum wage rates in the National Capital Region (NCR).

“Sadly, the NCR wage drives the needle for wages in the country; and NCR has seen no minimum wage increase since 2018,” Salceda said. “That leaves ordinary, working-class Filipinos totally unprepared for the price hikes that will inevitably come due to rising oil prices.”

Based on Salceda’s calculations, the NCR minimum wage of P537 a day is now worth just P464 in 2018 prices.

“That means that today’s NCR minimum wage would be able to buy P73 less in goods in 2018. That is grossly unfair to the working class,” Salceda added.

“Besides, increasing wages is the right thing to do at this point. The burden of price hikes has to be shared, between workers and their employers. Shared pain and shared benefits is the principle of a working economy,” the lawmaker explained. Salceda said he will endorse the petitions for wage hikes to Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III, “to argue the economic case for raising minimum wage.”

‘Contractual employees’

MEANWHILE, Rep. Michael T. Defensor of Anakalusugan has vowed to fast-track the grant of permanent status to long-time Quezon City Hall contractual employees.

“The Quezon City government’s long-time contractual workers deserve to be regularized so that they can enjoy security of tenure and receive allowances as well as bonuses, including the 13th month pay,” Defensor said.

At present, the Quezon City government has 13,376 contractual workers on top of its 6,000 plantilla position employees.

Should they win in the May 9 elections, Defensor and his running mate for vice mayor, Winnie Castelo, previously assured city hall’s contractual employees they would all get to keep their jobs and enjoy improved working conditions.

“We are absolutely committed to regularizing them. It would be grossly unfair to continue to deprive them of the benefits of permanent employment,” Defensor said in a statement on Sunday.

Defensor is the candidate for Quezon City mayor of former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, who are running for president and vice president, respectively.

“In Quezon City, we have many local government-employed day care teachers who have been at their jobs for more than 10 years, and yet they are still under service contracts,” Defensor said. “This is unacceptable.”


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