‘Only non-wage benefits on Labor Day’
By Philip Tubeza
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:24:00 04/19/2011
MANILA, Philippines—President Benigno Aquino III plans to hold a breakfast forum with labor leaders in Malacañang on May 1 but a wage hike is not yet on the agenda, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said Monday.
Baldoz said the government was looking at giving “non-cash” benefits to workers on Labor Day.
“There are non-cash benefits we are exploring from Pag-IBIG, PhilHealth … we are still looking at what’s possible,” Baldoz said at a press conference on the Department of Labor and Employment’s May 1 activities.
She said the Department of Trade and Industry was also studying giving discounts for basic commodities while the Department of Agriculture was mulling over more assistance to farmers.
A big job fair would also be held all over the country on that day.
On the possibility of a minimum wage hike, the labor chief said the regional wage boards of Metro Manila and western Visayas, which had declared a “supervening event” in their areas, would soon start holding public hearings.
“From there, they will determine the amount and nature of the increase—whether it is a wage adjustment or an increase in the cost of living allowance,” Baldoz said.
The Employers Confederation of the Philippines (Ecop), meanwhile, has urged organized labor to go slow on its clamor for a wage hike because fuel prices remained volatile in the world market.
With such a situation, a wage adjustment could trigger spiraling production costs and prices of commodities, said Ecop president Edgardo Lacson.
“In such an eventuality, wages and inflation would chase each other with workers at the losing end,” Lacson said in a statement.
The employers said a “feasible option” was to encourage collective bargaining so workers could freely negotiate with employers “who are willing to give relief to their workers without sacrificing enterprise viability.”
On the other hand, the Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) said wages in the Philippines would “remain at starvation levels while working conditions deteriorate further” unless the government provides a “family living wage (FLW).”
PM chair Renato Magtubo said the current wage fixing mechanism should be replaced by a new system that would institutionalize a “living wage” based on the cost of living.