Leeway to tweak wages sought

Published by rudy Date posted on April 20, 2010

Employers’ group says flexibility needed in times of economic difficulty

THE COUNTRY’S LARGEST employer group is poised to issue a resolution today calling for amendments to the Labor Code, including a provision that bars the reduction of benefits for workers.

The Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) will present its recommendations to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at the closing ceremony of the 31st National Conference of Employers which opened yesterday. The proposal will also be submitted to the next Congress which will take office this July, ECOP President Edgardo G. Lacson said.

The group’s call for changes to Article 100 of the Labor Code, or the prohibition against the elimination and diminution of benefits, comes a day after it voiced opposition to a wage hike this year at a hearing held by the Metro Manila wage board on a labor group’s P75-across-the-board wage hike petition.

Specifically, ECOP wants the law revisited “in relation to Article 100 of the Labor Code realizing that employers must be given the flexibility and leeway to adjust wages, especially in times of economic difficulty.”

Employers should be given the “prerogative to consult with their own workers on the need to realign compensation and other benefits in order to remain resilient, operational, and prevent job losses,” it added in the three-page resolution which was released yesterday.

The ECoP also wants:

* Amendments to Articles 106 to 109 of the Labor Code, or the provisions on contractual work and subcontracting, as well as implementing rules contained in Labor Department Order 18-02, which the group said would “recognize the need for more dynamic and flexible work arrangements to promote and enhance business efficiency and productivity, especially … business process outsourcing, which has been the thriving and most promising sector in the economy;”
* A repeal of the night work prohibition for women, stipulated in Article 130 of the Code, to take into account the “role that women play in national building, as well as growth and development in the economy.”
* The implementation of policies that would ease the cost of doing business such as “dismantling restrictions and limitations on investments and businesses by minimizing licenses, fees, charges and permits; and by cutting the number of days that entrepreneurs may open an establishment, at most within the global average of 30 days.”
* On the issue of labor justice administration, the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) should resolve backlogs “at the soonest time,” and that labor cases be settled within 90 days. “[The NLRC must] promote and enhance alternative modes of labor dispute resolution including conciliation, mediation and voluntary arbitration, [thus], ensuring that the cost of such modes are reasonable and viable for both employers and workers”;
* On governance, the next administration must “enforce, apply, and interpret the laws with consistency; promote transparency in terms of information, government transactions and undertakings; ensure people’s participation in tripartite consultations, and in the formulation and implementation process; and guarantee public officials’ accountability on their behaviors and actions.”

“We need these reforms in order to align the Philippine business and labor market with the changes in market systems and labor relations,” ECoP director Alfonso G. Siy said yesterday in remarks opening the conference.

He argued that productivity could be improved by “allowing employers to discipline workers rather than spoiling them since our Labor Department and labor policies are always pro-laborers because we are pro-poor and very political.”

“But to protect them is to keep their jobs, to keep their jobs means proper way to guide them to be more productive. The government should also need to be competitive,” he added.

Labor Secretary Marianito D. Roque said he would reserve comment on the ECoP’s resolutions until they are formally submitted.

Speaking at the conference, Labor Undersecretary Rosalinda D. Baldoz meanwhile vowed that the department would “facilitate and expedite the process of resolving labor cases.”

International Labour Organization Director Linda Wirth said both the government and businesses needed to invest in human resource and capital to be competitive vis-a-vis other Asian economies, as well as review the skills needed by various sectors to avoid work mismatch.

She also noted the importance of continuous dialogue among industries, the government and workers in upholding reforms, particularly on issues of skills, productivity and social protection.

“We call reforms as modernization. Reforms are needed if we want to move forward in line with the globalization because if these go to Congress or someone else, there won’t be any collective bargaining agreement that will happen,” Ms. Wirth said at the sidelines of the conference.

Social Security System president and chief executive officer Romulo L. Neri, who delivered the luncheon keynote in behalf of Vice-President Manuel “Noli” L. de Castro, said the productivity issue ould be addressed by investing in workers’ health, education and training. — Ma. Aizl Camille B. Cabarles, BUsinessworld

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