Minimum wage hike certain

Published by rudy Date posted on May 2, 2011

METRO MANILA’S private sector workers can look forward to a daily minimum wage adjustment next week, a Labor department official yesterday said.

“As directed by the President, there will be an issuance next week [of a wage hike order],” said Raymundo G. Agravante, chief of the Department of Labor and Employment’s Metro Manila office, as the region’s wage board staged a public hearing.

President Benigno S. C. Aquino III on Sunday ordered wage boards nationwide to fast-track deliberations, noting that “supervening conditions” had already been declared in the National Capital Region (NCR) and Region 6.

A supervening condition — in this case “extraordinary” fuel price increases — allows wage boards to adjust wages less than a year after the previous adjustment.

“There will be an issuance next week but as to its form we do not know yet because the members of the board would have to discuss [this], taking into consideration the positions of various sectors,” said Mr. Agravante, who is also chairman of the wage board.

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines’ (TUCP) has asked for a P75 across-the-board increase and the wage board yesterday set further deliberations for May 9.

Myrna B. Asuncion, acting policy planning director at the National Economic and Development Authority and wage board vice-chairman, said simulations were being finalized.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, for its part, said wage increases have to be no higher than P25 per day to avoid stoking inflation.

German N. Pascua, Jr., the TUCP’s wage board representative, said a P75 increase was needed to allow workers to “cope with the rising cost of basic goods.” But the moderate labor group, he claimed, would be amenable to a P45 per day wage hike.

Metro Manila minimum wage adjustments have not gone higher than the P30 per day emergency cost of living allowance ordered in October 2001. The highest direct wage hike is P26.50, ordered in October 2000.

Last year’s adjustment of P22 per day raised daily minimum wages in the metropolis to a range of P367-404.

Vicente R. Leogardo, Jr., director-general of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines and a wage board member, called the TUCP’s P75/day petition “just too high.”

He claimed any adjustment would lead to layoffs, noting that many businesses, particularly small and medium enterprises, were also having difficulties coping with rising production costs.

The Metro Manila wage board, Mr. Leogardo added, should wait until July when the normal 12 month proscription period between adjustments lapses.

Wages have been increased almost every year since 1989 when Republic Act 6727 turned over Congress’ power to order adjustments to regional tripartite boards. In Metro Manila, 15 wage orders have been issued since the law took effect. — N. M. Gonzales, Businessworld

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