MANILA, Philippines – Workers nationwide will get a much-awaited increase in their daily take-home pay after the May elections as a belated Labor Day gift, the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) said yesterday.
There was no announcement of a wage hike or any new package of benefits for workers during yesterday’s celebration of Labor Day, which is usually expected from Malacañang but the NWPC pledged to come out with a new wage order before the end of May.
NWPC executive director Ciriaco Lagunzad III yesterday reported that the wage board in Metro Manila is expected to grant a salary increase for minimum wage earners in the coming days.
“Before the end of the month, the National Capital Region (NCR) can come out with a new wage order,” Lagunzad said in an interview.
During yesterday’s Labor Day celebration, President Arroyo directed all the 17 Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards to hasten the process of resolving pending wage petition for a P75 across-the-board daily wage increase.
“The existing minimum wage in the country is actually higher in other countries in Asia, but we want our workers to benefit from our improving economy, so let the wage board speed up the negotiations for wage petitions,” Mrs. Arroyo said before a crowd predominantly members of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP).
She issued the directive to Labor Secretary Marianito Roque following calls from labor leaders to allow workers to have a share of the economic growth.
Roque said he would immediately meet with the different Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards to speed up the process of granting salary increases.
“Employers are against any wage hike saying they just came from global financial crisis, but there are always two positions in this issue and our role here is to find the common ground,” Roque said.
But NWPC executive director Patricia Hornilla said the NCR wage board already ended the public hearing and would deliberate and come out with a decision on the wage petitions.
“With the directive from the President, we expect the process to be faster,” Hornilla said while noting that workers from Metro Manila are likely to get the salary hike first.
After the NCR, Hornilla said the rest of the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards are expected to also come out with their own new wage orders.
Earlier, the TUCP filed formal wage petitions seeking salary increases ranging from P75 to P100.
TUCP official Vic Balais said the government has been insisting that the recovery from the financial crisis is now in full swing, yet the workers have not gotten any pay hike for the past two years.
Balais further complained that the government has failed to act on their request to stop contractualization, protect workers’ rights and speedily resolve labor cases pending before the National Labor Relations Commission.
He also sought the enactment of new regulations for the protection of public employees, women, youth and migrant workers as well as temporary housing for transient workers.
The President, however, boasted that under her presidency, nine million jobs were created, 11 million Filipinos were provided skills training, and labor strikes sharply went down.
The government also introduced several non-wage support packages at the height of the global financial crisis when several companies were laying off workers.
Mrs. Arroyo initiated the emergency employment initiatives such as the Comprehensive Livelihood Emergency Employment Program (CLEEP), the Out of School Youth Serving Towards Resiliency (OYSTER), Nurses Assigned in the Rural Sector (NARS), and the Youth Information Technology Opportunities (YOUTH-ITO) during the global financial crisis.
“We allotted P1 billion for such programs but we used so far P200 million and the balance will now be used for training the unemployed and underemployed, the youth, the informal sectors to acquire skills that can make them employable in areas like BPO (business process outsourcing) and IT (information technology),” the President said.
Mrs. Arroyo also thanked the workers for rallying behind her as she implemented the necessary painful reforms when she assumed the presidency in 2001.
“Thank you for giving me the chance to serve you,” she said in Filipino.
‘GMA administration worst in RP’s labor history’
But a militant labor group is not pleased with Mrs. Arroyo’s achievements for the welfare of laborers, saying she will leave behind the worst working conditions in Philippine labor history.
“President Arroyo would be leaving the ugliest labor situation in history – two-year wage freeze, record unemployment, and countless violations of labor rights,” said Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) chairman Elmer Labog.
He said the next administration “should act on workers’ demands for the passage of a substantial legislated wage hike, scrapping of contractualization policies, junking of the assumption of jurisdiction power of the labor secretary, and regulation of oil prices and electricity charges.”
Meanwhile, stalwarts of the opposition Liberal Party assured millions of Filipino workers that an administration under Senators Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and Mar Roxas would be labor-friendly and offer a much better living condition for laborers and their families.
Vice presidential candidate Roxas said they intend to make sure that their “policy toward labor would be centered on putting all Filipino workers on equal footing with their foreign counterparts and guaranteeing job opportunity and security for all Filipinos who want work.”
In a statement, Roxas said he shares the workers’ dream of a better life for their families and promised this would be his and Aquino’s prime objective if they win in the May 10 elections.
He said he would rely on his extensive experience as secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry, congressman from Capiz and as senator in pushing improvements and in protecting the welfare of Filipino laborers. –Mayen Jaymalin (The Philippine Star) with Delon Porcalla and Marvin Sy