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METRO MANILA WORKERS

Supervening condition for pay increase needed – DOLE

MANILA, Philippines — Workers shouldn’t expect much from the petitions for wage increases as a labor official pointed out on Monday that these should first justify a supervening condition that would merit a second wage hike in less than a year.

Labor Undersecretary Ciriaco Lagunzad III said discussions on the wage hike petitions for Metro Manila workers would happen if the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) was able to determine that there was a supervening condition.

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This meant a sustained “extraordinary increase” in the price of food and other basic necessities over the past three months.

The last time this was declared was in 2011 due to high inflation and the high cost of fuel.

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It’s worth noting though that even if prices of basic commodities soared and the inflation rate peaked at 7 percent in Metro Manila last year, the RTWPB did not rule that there was a supervening condition.

Its grant in November of a P25 wage adjustment came after the one-year anniversary of the previous pay increase.

Petitioners

On Monday, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) sought from the RTWPB a P710 across-the-board wage increase, while the Kilos na Manggagawa, Metal Workers Alliance of the Philippines and the BPO Industry Employees Network asked that the minimum wage in the metropolis be raised to P750.

TUCP’s petition, if granted, would raise to P1,247 the current P537 daily minimum wage of workers in the metropolis.

All groups cited the rising cost of goods and services as reason for the need to grant the second wage adjustment in Metro Manila in less than a year.

TUCP found an ally in Senate President Vicente Sotto III, who said on Monday that he was generally “supportive” of adjusting wage of workers in the private sector amid the fluctuating costs of basic commodities in the country.

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Sotto, however, said the issue should be discussed after the May 13 midterm elections.

“I can understand the timing because of (the Labor Day celebration on May 1). But it’s also the election period. Therefore, it would be wise to address it after the elections,” he said in a Viber message to reporters.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson pointed out that salary adjustments involved several factors.

“Hence, a thorough study must be made in this regard,” Lacson told the Inquirer in a text message.

He warned that implementing an across-the-board pay increase could lead to job losses as some business may just opt to close down if they were unable to provide the additional wage for their employees.

Outside board’s jurisdiction

Lagunzad noted that apart from the determination of a supervening condition, another hurdle to TUCP’s petition was its call for an across-the-board adjustment, which he said was outside the RTWPB’s jurisdiction.

He pointed out that the Supreme Court had earlier ruled that the board could not grant across-the-board pay increases.

“The board can only increase minimum wages because that is what is provided by the law. Across the board means from the highest position. The [government’s] policy is to assist the most vulnerable worker. Obviously, the president of a multinational company is not a vulnerable worker,” he said.

Lagunzad said the wage board might be accused of abuse of discretion and going beyond its jurisdiction if it granted an across-the-board increase.

Costly nutritious meal

In its petition filed with the RTWPB on Monday, TUCP pointed out that current wages were not enough for families to have a nutritious meal.

It noted that based on the nutritional requirements enumerated by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, a family of five would need to have a daily food budget of P917.5.

“The current minimum wage of P537 can only accord workers and their families nutritionally deficient survival meals,”  said Raymond Mendoza, TUCP president.

“A vast army of undernourished Filipino workers is a definite outcome and is detrimental to the country that prides itself with skilled and perceptive workers,” Mendoza said.

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TAGS: Ciriaco Lagunzad, Metro Manila minimum wage hike, TUCP
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