ORGANIZED labor will push for a P157 across-the-board wage increase in the daily take- home pay for workers in the private sector and another P500 monthly cash subsidy from the government to enable workers to cope with widening poverty as inflation continues to reduce purchasing power.
The Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP), through spokesman Alan Tanjusay, on Tuesday said it will file petitions for wage increase before the Regional Tripartite Productivity Wage Board (RTWPB) beginning at the National Capital Region (NCR) or Metro Manila next week.
On the P500 monthly subsidy for minimum wage earners, Tanjusay added that the Office of the President has already received their proposal, which can be implemented through its Emergency Labor Empowerment and Assistance Program (ELEAP) by having government issuing cash vouchers to qualified beneficiaries disbursed by the Social Security System (SSS), accredited trade unions and regional offices of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
The value of minimum wage earners’ daily wage has fallen by 26 percent against the 2015 Poverty Threshold standard amount of P393 a day needed by a family of 5 to survive.
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) set the Poverty Threshold Level or the standard amount needed by a family of five for them to survive in a month in the year 2015 is P9,064 or P393 a day.
The nominal P491 daily minimum wage in Metro Manila, however, fell to P361.30 in January 2017 or equivalent to P8, 671. 20 a month, according to data from the country’s wage board.
The average real wage amount in regions outside National Capital Region or NCR (Metro Manila), on one hand, is P250 a day or equivalent to P6,000 per month.
The Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) estimated that 30 million of the 43 million workers are employed as contractuals working in less than six-month short-term employment receiving mandated minimum wage.
Tanjusay said labor groups expect President Rodrigo Duterte to ban contractualization and provide a minimal cash amount by way of monthly subsidy as Labor Day gift to workers.
Employers, on the other hand, could help their employees cope with poverty by voluntarily providing across-the-board wage increase and implementing in-house programs that provide their employees with cash and non-cash benefits, he added.
The government defines poverty threshold as the minimum income required to meet food and non-food needs of a family of five including clothing, housing, transportation, health and educational expenses.
Last year, the labor sector had asked the RTWPB for a P125 across-the-board wage increase in the daily take-home pay for workers in the private sector but was rejected by the DoLE because of its inflationary effect even as it shares the view that there should be high and rising living standards for private-sector workers and their families.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd explained that Congress, not the executive department, has the authority under the law to act on proposals for a legislated wage increase.
“We are into adjusting wages of our workers. But an across-the-board wage increase is not within our mandate,” Bello said, citing Republic Act 6727 or the Wage Rationalization Act.
“It is under the jurisdiction of Congress. It has to go through a legislative act,” he added.
According to him, all RTWPBs are under the directive to conduct wage reviews and public consultations to determine possible wage adjustments in their respective jurisdictions.
“Different regions have different socio-economic conditions and cost of living conditions. We have to consider these conditions,” he said.
But Tanjusay pointed out that the RTWPBs have also the power to act on petitions for across-the-board wage increase and “it is such authority that we are invoking.”
Bello pointed out that any increase in wages will have a bearing on the cost of doing business, production, employment and prices such that it always needs consultations between business and labor and other concerned sectors before a wage increase is implemented even on a regional level.
He cited a simulation study made by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) on the impact of the proposed P125 wage increase, which showed that it could result in upward pressures on prices from 2017 when inflation could rise to 9.7 percent from a baseline of 2.1 percent and as well as in the succeeding year.
The study shows that it would also result in displacement of 500,000 workers in 2017, which can raise the unemployment rate to 7.3 percent.
In April last year, the RTWPB-NCR pegged at P491 the daily minimum wage after it granted a P10 wage increase out of the P154 wage hike petition filed by ALU in March 2016. WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL