Baldoz: P22 COLA ‘reasonable’

Published by rudy Date posted on May 10, 2011

3 other regions may follow NCR’s lead

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said the P22 cost-of-living allowance (COLA) that the wage board in Metro Manila decided on Monday is already reasonable, meant only to cover the “supervening event.”

In an interview with ANC on Tuesday, Baldoz said “[it’s just to cover a] supervening condition, we’re not dealing here with a regular wage deliberations.”

The Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board in the National Capital Region decided to grant minimum wage workers a P22 COLA, instead of an increase in the basic wage of P404.

The COLA will not be used in the computation of night differentials, 13th-month pay, retirement and separation benefits. It is usually given as an immediate relief to workers.

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) and militant labor groups assailed the P22 increase in COLA.

“We think the [wage] board just missed an opportunity to raise workers’ standard of living, at least in the NCR,” said TUCP spokesperson Rafael Mapalo. “It institutionalizes the primacy of profits over people.”

The wage board convened on Monday, saying a review of wages is needed because of the incessant increase in fuel prices. The wage board decided to snub the moratorium on wages. A regular review would have still been held in July.

Baldoz said the reprieve meant “employers were only sensitive to the needs of workers.” The amount also has to be studied in order to offset any inflationary pressures, she added.

Employers had warned a minimum wage increase would affect inflation figures and force businesses to close shop.

She added employers would also have to contend with “wage distortions” or the adjustment for workers receiving more than the minimum wage.

She said the government will review any appeals. Notwithstanding this, however, the COLA will be implemented 15 days after the publication of the wage order.

After NCR, Baldoz said other regions will already follow. The NCR wage usually serves as a benchmark for other regions.

“Region 3 decided there is a supervening event, Region 6 will conduct a public hearing on May 20, and Region 8 is ready to issue a wage order within the month,” she said.

‘What about the informal sector?’

Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) honorary chairman Sergio Ortiz Luis Jr. lamented that the new adjustment in workers’ pay is further prejudicing those in the informal sector.

“What is its benefit to jeepney drivers, vendors and fisherfolk? Everytime there is an increase, companies close shop and workers lose their jobs,” he said in a separate interview on ANC.

The unemployed is absorbed, most often than not, by the informal sector that now accounts for 85% of the 39 million workforce.

He said it is understandable that some sectors will be unhappy about the COLA. The wage board merely tried to strike a balance between the needs of workers and that of employers, he added.

“It’s not a threat, but a reality, that many businesses close shop since the [adjustment] is based on income and not productivity,” he added.

He noted the minimum wage in the Philippines is one of the highest in the region. “It is already higher than Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia,” he said.

Ortiz-Luis also said employers have long covered the P125 legislated wage hike some labors groups have been asking since 12 years ago. “We’ve been giving an average P25 increase every year, we’ve already covered that.” –Ira Pedrasa,

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