Wage hikes not ‘harmful’ — Aquino

Published by rudy Date posted on May 6, 2011

EMPLOYERS were urged yesterday to accept the prospect of higher wages, with President Benigno S. C. Aquino III saying that a round of nationwide adjustments expected to start next week will “not be a threat” to growth.

“I know that some of you have concerns about possible increases in wages after I urged the wage boards to expedite rulings on the petitions of the labor unions … What we have offered to labor is not necessarily harmful to your interests,” Mr. Aquino said at the last day of the annual National Employers Conference.

Mr. Aquino on May 1 order wage deliberations fast-tracked, noting that supervening conditions — “extraordinary” fuel price increases — had been declared in several regions. The Metro Manila wage board has said it would be issuing a decision sometime next week.

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) wants wages in the capital increased by P75 per day but employers said they could afford only over a fifth of that amount.

“[A] P13.35 [increase] will be our official position. There might be minimal changes to the official figure, but it will be around this amount,” Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines (ECoP) President Edgardo G. Lacson said at the sidelines of the conference.

Vicente R. Leogardo, Jr., ECoP director-general and one of two management representatives in the Metro Manila wage board, said their proposal would be revised to account for a higher April inflation rate of 4.5%.

The P13.35 offer is based on March’s 4.3% inflation and the ECoP’s final proposal will be submitted on Monday instead of tomorrow as originally planned, Mr. Leogardo added.

Subsidies and allowances for clothing, transportation, food and medicine will be recommended on a “voluntary basis,” Mr. Lacson said. “[The] P13.35 [proposal] will be the heart of our position.”

The TUCP, sought for comment, rejected the ECoP’s position.

“We stand by our petition. A wage increase is necessary. If employers keep denying wage increases, workers’ conditions and living standards will never improve,” TUCP director Rafael E. Mapalo said in a text message.

As the annual employers’ conference wound up yesterday, meanwhile, the ECoP submitted to Mr. Aquino a five-point agenda aimed at strengthening the tripartite system.

They urged the government to adopt a two-tiered wage system, to be composed of a national minimum wage plus a productivity-based level that would be determined by industries.

The ECoP also called for:

* the strengthening of tripartism through more consultations with stakeholders;
* reinforcement of the industry and regional tripartite bodies by setting clear nomination standards for representatives to wage boards;
* amendments to the “archaic” labor code, such as repeal of law that bans women from night shift work, to ensure that local industries are competitive in the global market; and
* speedy disposition of labor disputes through the National Labor Relations Commission. — N. M. Gonzales and J. D. Poblete, BUsinessworld

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