ECOP dampens pay hike hopes

Labor bloc, lawmakers urge government to keep an open mind

ECOP dampens pay hike hopes
TAUNTING THOUGHTS. A hard-hatted worker is in a shilly-shally Tuesday noon beneath the scorching 35°C in supporting steel stands in mid-level of a high-rise building along Macapagal Avenue in Pasay City while quietly counting the hours to Labor Day today. Lino Santos
The Employers Confederation of the Philippines and the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines are on a collision course over the latter’s petition for a P710 increase in wages of workers in Metro Manila as the country marks Labor Day, a holiday in honor of working people.

ECOP president Sergio Ortiz-Luis told GMA News Balitanghali, in an interview heard nationwide on the eve of Labor Day, he doubted if the Tripartite Wage Board would be entertained by the Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards.

But the research group IBON quickly underlined employers could very well afford to raise the minimum wage to P750 which only entailed a small cut in their profits, adding the Duterte administration should support this hike which would help millions of Filipino households dependent on wages and salaries cope with the rising cost of goods and services.

READ: P750-daily wage sought

Current minimum wages are far from IBON’s estimate of the family living wage (FLW) needed by a family of five. 

The current minimum wage in the National Capital Region of P537 is already the highest in the country, but it is P467 short of the P1,004 FLW as of March 2019.

Ortiz-Luis noted that it was only in November 2018 when a P25-hike in the daily minimum wage of workers in the National Capital Region was approved, saying the petition for a wage increase must be done within a year.

But Senator Joel Villanueva, chairman of the Senate labor and employment committee, said the government should not immediately close its doors on the possibility of having a second wage increase in less than a year. 

He said the government must look into the supervening conditions to justify whether there was a need for another increase. 

“Examining this issue in our current social and economic context is also necessary,” Villanueva added. 

Villanueva was reacting to an earlier statement by Labor Undersecretary Ciriaco Lagunzad III that workers should not expect much from the petitions for wage increases since it should first justify a supervening condition that would merit a second wage hike in less than a year.

The proposed increase should be studied well and evaluated by the Regional Wages and Productivity Board, Villanueva said.

The visible logjam was developing as labor groups were preparing to stage rallies in key cities in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao today, where their leaders said they would demand an end to contractualization and push for the P750 wage increase nationwide.

“We have long and consistently called for a just end to pervasive contractualization of labor, yet the practice of labor-only contracting, job-only contracting and other forms of flexible labor remain prevalent among the working people,” said Elmer Labog, chairperson of the militant group Kilusang Mayo Uno.

The Nagkaisa! Labor Coalition, KMU, Partido ng Manggagawa, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines reiterated the call for an end to contractualization and push for the enactment of a Security of Tenure Law while calling for an increase in wages nationwide.

Sonny Matula, chairperson of Nagkaisa. said “Congress has nine more session days after the elections. Newly-elected legislators won’t begin their terms until after June 30. The labor movement will defend workers’ rights to the last. 

With enough political will, President Rodrigo Duterte and his allies in the Senate can still have a Security of Tenure Law enacted during this Congress.”

“This will definitely continue the pressure on the Senate, especially its reelectionist senators to openly declare either their support or opposition to the proposed End Endo Law,” Matula said. 

In related developments:  

• Over 200,000  jobs are up for grabs in the nationwide simultaneous job and business opportunities fair of the Department of Labor and Employment today  to mark the celebration of Labor Day.

DOLE is inviting jobseekers to take the opportunity as  204,000 local and overseas jobs will be offered by over 1,000 agencies in 31 sites across the country, including the main TNK-Build Build Build-Jobs Jobs Jobs caravan at the Kingsborough International Convention Center in San Fernando City, Pampanga.

 Openings for government jobs include positions for officers and non-uniformed personnel of the Philippine National Police, Bureau of Fire Protection, Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, among other agencies of government.

Other local available jobs are mostly in services like customer service representative, machine operator, and in the field of construction under the Build, Build, Build program.

Also top vacancies are collection specialist, cashier, retail/sales agent, accounts specialist, service crew, utility staff, bagger, and skilled sewer.

For overseas placement, the vacancies include those for a factory worker, nurse, machine operator, welder, house worker, waiter/waitress, baker, including English teachers for Thailand.

• Reelectionist Senator Juan Edgardo Angara called on President Duterte to sign into law a measure that would exempt an estimated 1.3 million first-time jobseekers from paying fees on government-issued documents during job application.

“Searching for a job can be costly and this measure can help to ease a bit the financial burden first-time jobseekers are faced with,” Angara said, noting that securing all these government-issued documents was inordinately expensive for people without a regular income.

 These documents include police clearance, NBI clearance, barangay clearance, medical certificate from public hospitals, birth and marriage certificates, tax identification number, community tax certificate, certification of eligibility, multi-purpose ID card, and other documentary requirements issued by the government that may be required by employers.

Angara noted the costs of looking for work often lead to a perverse outcome where jobseekers, having fallen into debt to meet these costs, find themselves worse off before and even unable to pay for basics like food.

Data showed that job applicants pay as much as P2,000 for employment requirements, a bulk of this amount is spent on government-issued documents.

The enrolled copy of the proposed First-Time Job Seekers Act has been sent to Malacañang for the President’s signature.

The TUCP is calling for an additional P710 on the minimum wage of workers in Metro Manila. If allowed, the minimum wage in the NCR would be P1,247.

IBON said in a statement that raising the minimum wage to P750 would significantly raise the incomes of Filipino workers. 

The group’s computations also suggest that employers can afford to increase the minimum wage they pay to P750.

In the NCR, raising the average daily basic pay of P562 to P750 will add P4,095 to the monthly income and P53,231 to the annual income (including 13th-month pay) of employees. 

IBON pointed out this would only cost P115 billion out of the P1.17 trillion in profits of the 14,414 establishments in NCR, which is equivalent to just 9.8 percent of their profits.

Raising the ADBP of P401 nationwide to P750 will, in turn, add P7,592 to employees’ monthly income and P98,694 to their annual income (including 13th-month pay), IBON said. 

This will cost the 35,835 establishments nationwide just P462 billion or only 21.4 percent out of their P2.16 trillion in profits, as per IBON computations.

The group stressed that meaningful wage hikes are doable if only companies were willing to accept a small cut in their profits. IBON also pointed out that raising wages will not be inflationary if companies share a little more of their profits with workers instead of passing the wage hike on to consumers as higher prices.

These were estimated using the latest Annual Survey of Philippine Business and Industry data of the Philippine Statistics Authority for enterprises with 20 or more workers. 

But IBON underscored the government could help micro, small and medium enterprises afford the wage hike by providing them tax breaks and incentives, cheap credit, subsidized utilities, and technology and marketing support.

The growing productivity of Filipino workers is among the main drivers of economic growth and they deserve a significant wage increase, IBON said. 

It said the richest individuals and biggest corporations, in particular, have more than enough for granting wage increase. 

Villanueva said the petition for an increase in the workers’ wages put an issue of the prevalence of malnutrition, which he said was a valid concern which should not be dismissed outright.  

He cited a study of Save the Children Philippines in 2015 which placed the country’s stunting rate at 33 percent which he added was relevant to wages and whether workers and their families were nourished properly.

READ: State workers’ wage hike on hold

READ: ‘31.92-million Pinoys not covered by P25 wage hike’

READ: P25-wage hike a pittance—Labor

Topics: Employers Confederation of the Philippines , Trade Union Congress of the Philippines , Labor Day , minimum wage
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