Labor not optimistic over pay hike

Published by rudy Date posted on May 21, 2011

The labor representative on the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board yesterday said he is not optimistic that workers in Western Visayas will get an adequate wage increase with the “measly offers” made by management groups in Panay and Negros.

“It is disgusting, just like their counterparts in Panay and Manila, management in Negros Occidental is only confirming the degradation of workers by offering such measly amounts,” Wennie Sancho said after an RTWPB hearing in Bacolod City yesterday morning.

“I am very pessimistic, it looks like the lowest amount will be   approved by the wage board,” Sancho said.

The Bacolod Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Amity Club of Negros Occidental and the Metro Bacolod Chamber of Commerce and Industry yesterday proposed a P7 a day Emergency Cost of Living Allowance to all workers receiving minimum wage.

However, Benjamin Ortega – BFCCCI president, John Yap – ACNO chairman, and Frank Carbon – MBCCI president said in a joint position paper that once the political unrest in the Middle East has stopped and oil prices have stabilized, the RTWPB should immediately convene and review if there is still a need to continue giving the ECOLA to the workers.

They said they are strongly opposed to the labor sectors petition of P97 a day across-the-board wage increases regardless of whether a worker is receiving minimum wage or more.

Most of the businesses in Negros Occidental are in the micro and small category and cannot afford to pay an additional P97 a day or P2,5000 to P3,000 per month wage increase to all workers, the three said.

If such businesses are forced by operation of law to pay such an increase, it may cause some to fold-up and explore other options to stay afloat, they said.

The extraordinary increase in the prices of petroleum products that made the RTWPB declare the existence of supervening conditions is brought about by the temporary market conditions in the Middle East and North America, they added.

“We agree with the business sector in Iloilo that we have to proceed cautiously in coming up with a decision on the wage increase petition, to avoid permanent repercussions to temporary market conditions,” they stressed.

At an RTWPB hearing in Iloilo Wednesday, Iloilo business groups offered an ECOLA of P8 and Aklan businessmen offered a P5 ECOLA, Labor Regional Director Manuel Roldan said.

But Randy Ronquillo, head of the  Trade Union of Filipino Workers in Negros and Zoilo de la Cruz, president of National Congress of Unions in the Sugar Industry of the Philippines-Trade Union Congress, yesterday reiterated the urgent need for the board to grant their petitions for a P97 and P99 daily wage increases, respectively.

They said workers need the increase to meet the rising prices of basic goods.

De la Cruz said management’s argument  that companies will be forced to shut down and resort to retrenchment should a wage increase be granted  is not supported by data from the Department of Labor and Employment.

In fact, only 15 to 25 percent goes to wages in the overall operation of companies, he said.

“A wage increase will boost domestic demand, increasing production, investments and employment,” he added.

De la Cruz said that, should the RTWPB deny Western Visayas an adequate wage increase, NACUSIP-TUCP will file a motion for reconsideration like it did for the P22 ECOLA granted to Metro Manila.

Any increase granted should be given to all employees, not just to those receiving the minimum wage so that there is no discrimination, de la Cruz, who is also pushing for tax exemption for workers, said.

Roldan, who is also RTWPB 6 chairman, said that after the hearing yesterday, the board will collate all the information that will be used as the basis for discussion of the wage issue.

The RTWPB will meet on March 25 to discuss the merits of the proposals from labor and management to come up with a decision.

Present at the RTWPB hearing yesterday chaired by Roldan were National Economic Development Authority regional director Ro-Ann Bacal and Trade and Industry Regional Director Dominic Abad – vice chairmen; John Peter Millan and Luis Estrella – employers’ representatives; and Wennie Sancho and Hernane Braza – workers’ representatives.

Meanwhile, Kilusang Mayo Uno, in a press statement issued yesterday, reiterated its call for  trade unions  in Western Visayas to instead unite and push for the passage of House Bill 375, which aims for a P125 legislated wage hike to all employees nationwide.

“Workers and labor representatives in the RTWPB must not expect too much from the capitalist dominated wage board,” Evidente said.

Under the legislated wage hike workers are given more democratic participation because they can lobby to their congressmen, he added.

“It’s high time that labor representatives abandon the futile wage board and join us for a legislated wage hike campaign nationwide,” he said.*CPG

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