The National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) will look into the possibility of granting an immediate increase in take-home pay of workers in Metro Manila, an official disclosed yesterday.
While the law restricts salary hikes to once a year, NWPC officer’sin-charge Esther Guirao said they will study the wage petition filed by the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines.
“Wage orders issued by the boards cannot be disturbed for 12 months within effectivity. However, the boards can review the minimum wage levels even before the one-year expiration period if there is an extraordinary increase in the price of basic commodities and petroleum products,” Guirao explained.
Guirao noted that the wage board in Metro Manila will take into consideration the need to protect the purchasing power of low income workers as well as the need to preserve existing jobs.
“There should be a balance between providing a decent standard of living for workers and ensuring the survival and viability of business, more so, small and medium enterprises which comprise 99 percent of the country’s businesses,” Guirao pointed out.
The TUCP, the country’s largest federation of labor unions, has filed a petition before the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) in the National Capital Region (NCR) seeking a P75 across-the-board salary hike for workers in the region.
Although the inflation rate has gone down, TUCP said, the purchasing power of the workers has depreciated because of the small but steady increase in prices of basic goods and services.
TUCP claimed that the Consumer Price Index in Metro Manila went up from 45.3 to 142.2, which is equivalent to 3.14 times from January 1991 to February 2007.
Last July 11, the NCR Regional Board granted a P25 adjustment, raising the minimum daily pay of workers in the region to P350.
However, the business community has warned of higher unemployment if the government immediately grants the demand for a salary hike.
Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) stressed that setting the minimum wage rates “beyond the safety level” would lead to fewer employment opportunities for new entrants to the labor market and unskilled workers.
Half a million college graduates have entered the labor market, which is expected to push the unemployment level higher this month. Unemployment traditionally goes up in April.
ECOP president Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. also noted that higher minimum wage rates would discourage business from using labor-intensive operations and that could lead to unemployment.
Ortiz-Luis further insisted that there was no justifiable reason for workers in Metro Manila to seek salary adjustment at this time. “The salary increase granted by the NCR wage board in July last year already took into account the possible erosion in workers’ purchasing power through anticipated inflation rate.” –Mayen Jaymalin, Philippine Star