Wage hikes fast-tracked

Published by rudy Date posted on April 14, 2011

MANILA, Philippines – Pay hikes for Metro Manila workers could be announced as early as next month as a “supervening condition” has been declared by wage officials.

“Extraordinary” fuel price increases, the Regional Tripartite Wage and Productivity Board (RTWPB) said on Tuesday, warranted a review of wage floors in the metropolis ahead of a 12-month proscription ending this June.

A labor group welcomed the move but employers said the situation needed more study.

“Yes, we have approved it,” Labor Secretary Rosalinda D. Baldoz told reporters after meeting with the National Wages and Productivity Comission to affirm the Metro Manila wage board’s resolution.

“A notice of hearing will be published and public hearings will be conducted. Afterwards, the wage board will deliberate on what form it (a wage hike) will take and what amount it will be,” Ms. Baldoz added.

Public consultations can start 15 days after publication of the hearing notice but a decision may not be reached before Labor Day, she said.

“It could be announced most likely after Labor Day, considering the physical count of days required for a public hearing,” she said.
“What is clear is the process has started and if price increases continue to be relentless, then that will dictate the possible decision of the wage board.”

The last Metro Manila wage order was issued on June 7, 2010 — a P22 adjustment that raised the daily minimum pay to a range of P367-404. By law, another increase cannot be ordered in less than a year unless a supervening condition exists.

The Metro Manila RTWPB said that based on monitoring from July 2010 to April 2011, prices of Dubai crude had risen to $114.83 per barrel from $72.49.

Per liter prices of unleaded gasoline and diesel, meanwhile, increased to P59.39 and P50.65, respectively, as of March 2011 from P47.84 and P38.35 in July 2010.

“These extraordinary oil price increases resulted in higher transportation fares and some prices in basic commodities and services,” its resolution states.

Ms. Baldoz said the Metro Manila wage board had previously declared supervening events in 1990 when oil prices shot up because of the Gulf War; in 2005 during an oil and rice crisis; and in 2008 when world crude oil prices hit record highs.

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), which last March filed a petition for a P75/day across-the-board adjustment, said it welcomed the wage board’s move.

“The TUCP will actively participate in these consultations and push for immediate promulgation of a new wage order,” TUCP spokesman Rafael E. Mapalo said.

Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) President Edgardo G. Lacson, meanwhile, questioned the declaration of a supervening condition.

“We are not against employee benefits, but we do not have to disturb wages yet as the situation is still volatile. Once we increase salaries, these cannot be adjusted down,” Mr. Lacson said.

“Also, wage hikes only benefit 2.2 million of the workforce, those working in the formal sector. The 35.2 million in the informal sector will not feel this effect and could even be disadvantaged as prices of commodities could increase,” he added. — from a report by Nathaniel R. Melican, BusinessWorld

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