Labor groups revive bid for P125 pay hike

LABOR activists press for a legislated P125 wage increase in the strawberry fields of Benguet, where a House subcommittee held a hearing on salaries. VINCENT CABREZA/INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet—Labor leaders from Luzon on Friday tried to convince the House subcommittee on labor standards to endorse a measure that would increase daily wages by P125 during the last of a series of congressional hearings held near the town’s strawberry fields.

A small group of activists belonging to the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) had camped near the fields to express their support for the wage bill.

The public hearing was conducted by Northern Samar

Rep. Emil Ong, chair of the House committee on labor and employment, who was criticized for delaying approval of the bill when he went to the United States to watch the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez fight last month.

Ong began the hearing by admonishing his critics. “I flew here from Samar because I didn’t want to be attacked anymore for delaying this bill when I went to the US to watch the Pacquiao-Marquez match,” he said.

The last legislated wage law was Republic Act No. 6727, which set a P25 wage increase across the board in 1988.

The Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research said it was time to review the law, which allows tripartite wage boards to set different wage ceilings in the provinces.

Ong asked the subcommittee members to vote on the bill after concluding that no one objected to the measure at the hearing attended by heads of unions and labor groups from Northern, Central and Southern Luzon.

The members included the two sponsors of the measure—Anakpawis party-list Rep. Rafael Mariano and Kabataan party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino—and Benguet Rep. Ronald Cosalan, vice chair of the House labor committee.

Gregorio San Mateo, head of the transport group Piston, urged the subcommittee to endorse House Bill No. 375, saying: “This is the golden opportunity. If the 15th Congress passes this bill, all of the country’s workers will remember you forever.”

Most of the groups that presented their case dwelt on President Aquino’s declaration that the country’s economy has improved, citing a 7.1 growth during the third quarter of 2012.

KMU officials said the growth suggests that businesses could afford a pay increase. They added that profits have barely trickled down from the investors and shareholders to the workers of many companies. Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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Tags: Benguet , Farm , Labor , pay hike , Strawberry , wages

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