• Labor bloc seeks govt subsidy for workers

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    THE country’s biggest confederation of worker groups has expressed confidence that the labor sector would be better off under the administration of incoming President Rodrigo Duterte after years of neglect from past and present leaders.

    The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), through spokesman Alan Tanjusay, on Sunday said it is planning to seek a conditional cash transfer-like subsidy for workers to cope with rising cost of living, among other measures, that would improve the living conditions of minimum wage earners.

    Tanjusay explained that the scheme is for the government to provide P2,000 monthly cash subsidy for all minimum wage earners out of the government’s annual cash surplus.

    “The cash will be used to purchase basic commodities and pay for utility bills and tuition,” he said.

    Some 8 million workers are living below the poverty threshold as a result of the imbalance between the current daily minimum standard required for a family to survive and the current real value of the highest minimum wage in the country.

    The TUCP said it would also seek abolition of all regional wage boards and proposed the creation of a national wage board instead where wages are discussed and set under one roof once a year, similar to that of the labor-management “Spring Offensive” of Japan when wages are discussed, negotiated and set every start of spring.

    Duterte earlier vowed to eradicate the illegal practice of contractualization by many companies and establishments.

    There are an estimated 30 million contractual workers across the country.

    Under the malpractice, companies undermine the Labor Code by hiring the services of a recruitment or manpower agency or cooperative for less than six months for the services they need to avoid a direct employer-employee relationship.

    Earlier, the National Capital Regional (Metro Manila) Wage and Productivity Board approved a P10 cost of living allowance for workers in the region on top of the existing P481 daily pay, three weeks after TUCP filed an across-the-board P154 wage hike.

    “The cost of living allowance increase granted by the wage board today is again, as it has always been, not enough to lift minimum wage earner out of poverty. The mandate of the wage board is to set a living minimum wage that can be able to feed a family of five and empower them out of poverty. But with today’s decision, the wage board did not. The board has been out of touch, irrelevant and not responsive to the needs of workers and their families,” TUCP president Raymond Mendoza said.

    Affected by a 24 percent erosion in February this year, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said the real value of the highest current nominal wage–which is in Metro Manila–is P9,467.12 a month while the standard amount needed by a family of five to stay within the poverty threshold is P12,517 a month.

    Aside from PSA, the standard is also set by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI).

    NEDA and FNRI said the poverty threshold is the amount needed by a family of five to cover for basic food and non-food needs such as costs of transportation, utility bills, tuition and medicines to become productive citizens.

    “The meager P10 additional COLA [cost of living allowance]is how low the wage board treats workers who helped built a steady 6.9 percent GDP of the economy this first quarter of the year. The highest performing economy is Asia. It is an injustice and a form of exploitation to workers. It is a bad joke because this is the only wage increase in any part of the world where workers always grieve rather than be happy every time there is a wage hike announcement,” Tanjusay said.

    The Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board is an attached agency of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

    Its mandate is to prescribe the minimum wage rates for private sector workers in the different regions and promote productivity improvement programs.

    The board in each region is composed of representatives from the Department of Trade and Industry, NEDA, DOLE and two representatives each from labor and employers groups.

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