Thursday, January 13, 2011

Labor group to press for wage increase amid price hikes

A major labor confederation said Thursday it will file a petition next week calling for an increase in Metro Manila workers’ wages, amid recent and impending hikes in prices of basic goods and services.

In a report aired on GMA News’ “24 Oras", the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) said it will file before the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) a petition seeking for an across-the-board wage increase ranging from P55 to P75 for workers in the National Capital Region (NCR)

Yung kita ng mga company, patuloy lang na napupunta sa mga namumuhunan. Kailangan din this time, i-improve natin yung standard of living ng mga manggagawa," said TUCP spokesman Rafael Mapalo in the newscast.

(Profits of companies continue to go only to the investors. This time, we also need to improve the standard of living of workers.)

The militant Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) likewise said that a legislated wage increase has become urgent in light of what it calls “the New Year price blast."

KMU cited recent hikes in the prices of bread, meat, petroleum products, and electricity, which accompanied the first week of the new year.

Toll fees at the North and South Luzon Expressways likewise went up, while fare hikes at the Metro Rail Transit and the Light Rail Transit are set to be implemented in March.

“Before the wave of price increases this year, the International Labor Organization already said that the wage level in the Philippines is one of the worst-hit by the world economic crisis. The new year price blast being unleashed by big capitalists in cahoots with the Aquino government makes a substantial wage increase even more urgent," said
Roger Soluta, KMU secretary-general, in a statement.

Soluta added that without the wage increase, hunger incidence in the country will worsen, as the Filipino family’s budget for food is most affected by the decline in the real value of wages.

Currently pending before Congress is House Bill 375, filed by Anakpawis partylist Rep. Rafael Mariano, which seeks to mandate a P125 across-the-board wage hike nationwide.

NWPC won’t entertain wage petitions

The NWPC, however, said it will not entertain petitions for a wage increase from any labor group, as it has just implemented a P22 wage hike in July last year.

There is an existing rule which bars another DOLE-initiated wage increase to be granted within one year after the granting of a similar increase.

The NWPC said it will only consider such petitions despite the one-year prohibition rule in cases of an unusual event, disorder or calamity.

"It is important to explain that the board, however, can entertain petitions within one year if there is what is known as supervening condition," said NWPC executive director Ciriaco Lagunzad in the GMA News report.

Lagunzad added that the commission has determined that inflation, or the rise in the prices of goods and services, remains stable at this point.

The Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) likewise bucked calls for a wage increase, saying that even amid recent price hikes, employers have been giving their workers non-wage benefits such as rice subsidy, medical insurance and shuttle service for employees.

"The petition is baseless. We want to be generous out of compassion, not out of compulsion. Huwag naman kaming ikulong sa hindi namin kaya [Please don’t jail us for something that we’re unable to do)," said ECOP president Edgardo Lacson in the same newscast.

Data from ECOP show that only 3 million of the country’s 36-million-strong workforce are minimum wage earners.

Majority of the country’s labor force are unemployed or are self-employed such as vendors and jeepney drivers, ECOP said, and will thus not benefit from the proposed wage increase.

"What we suggest is that let's focus our efforts on job generation, and job generation is always
investment equals employment," Lacson explained.—Jerrie M. Abella/JV, GMANews.TV

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