by Mario M. Banzon, Businessworld, Jul 17, 2017
THE LARGEST group of private employers in the Philippines has formally asked Metro Manila’s wage board to junk a string of petitions seeking an across-the-board hike in the daily minimum wage, with public debates on the plea set for conclusion by July 27.
The second of three public hearings was held last Friday, July 14, with the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECoP) this time making the case for the dismissal of three wage hike petitions filed by labor groups. Workers wanted an across-the-board increase, saying that the minimum wage earners’ daily take-home pay of P491 is no longer sufficient given the increasing cost of living.
ECoP’s argument centered on that technicality, saying the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board — National Capital Region (RTWPB) cannot grant wage hikes beyond those it can give minimum wage earners, so that those who earn more than that should not be covered.
“According to case law, the grant of an across-the-board minimum wage increase does not fall within the jurisdiction of the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards which is limited to granting regional wage increases to statutory minimum wage rates,” read ECoP’s motion to dismiss.
It filed three counter-petitions — all with nearly the same wording — to three wage hike pleas separately filed by labor groups Associated Labor Unions (ALU), Association of Minimum Wage Earners and Advocates, an affiliate of the Philippine Trade and General Workers Organizations (AMWEA-PTGWO), and the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP).
ALU wanted an across-the-board P184.00 daily wage increase in the National Capital Region filed once again last June 6 since its initial petition last May was dismissed for being filed too soon as the law bars wage pleas within one year from the last wage hike. AMWEA-PTGWO petitioned on June 2 an across-the-board minimum increase of P175 in four tranches, while the TUCP sought a hike of P259 for all workers including those in Barangay Micro Business Enterprise (BMBE) on June 16.
“They were asking (for) hefty increases,” lawyer Vicente D.R. Leogardo Jr., ECoP’s director general, said on Friday after the public hearing held at the Philippine Trade Training Center in Pasay City.
He warned of downsizing and business shutdowns. “Minimum wage applies to all establishments micro, medium, micro-small, and large… we have to take into account also the plight of the micro industries, micro establishments which cannot afford any hefty increases. There are standards to consider in increasing the minimum wage: one of these is the price adjustment based upon the consumer price index,” Mr. Leogardo said.
Angelita D. Senorin, TUCP vice-president who also represents the labor group in the board reviewing the petition, said in Filipino: “We’re taking into consideration small-to-medium enterprises. The labor sector is also considerate when it comes to SMEs.”
Arguments from both employer and worker groups will be heard in a final public hearing on July 27.
Johnson G. Canete, Regional Director of the Department of Labor and Employment — National Capital Region who by law sits as ex-officio chairman of the regional wage board, said it is too early to make a decision on the new wage hike plea. The last hike, Wage Order No. 20, which raised the daily minimum wage to P491 for Metro Manila workers was granted on June 2 last year.
“Some claim they have not come up as a group on what is their position regarding the petitions… everything is still at a state wherein it is open to all considerations both from labor and management sector.”
Labor groups expect the wage board to decide by September.
“The process of consultations, hearings and deliberations normally take more than 45 days. Decision might come in early September,” TUCP General Secretary Emeritus Cedric R. Bagtas said in a text message. —