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By Alden M. Monzon, Reporter
Keith Richard D. Mariano

Wage hike sought for Metro Manila

Posted on April 14, 2016

THE COUNTRY’S biggest labor group plans to formally seek today a P154 increase in daily minimum wage for private sector workers in the National Capital Region (NCR), or Metro Manila, arguing in a statement yesterday that current levels have been left far behind by rising cost of living.

“With (the) current wage level falling 24% behind rising cost of living,” the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP)-Nagkaisa faction said it would file the petition at 10 a.m. at the office of the Regional Tripartite Wage and Productivity Board-NCR in Malate, Manila.

The most recent wage order in the capital which took effect in April last year -- the law provides that the minimum wage can be raised only after a year from the last adjustment -- provided a P15 increase that took the daily minimum wage to P481 for non-agriculture workers and to P444 for those in farms, private hospitals with up to 100 beds, retail/service businesses with up to 15 workers and manufacturing establishments with less than 10 workers. TUCP-Nagkaisa had asked for a P136 raise in January last year.

Metro Manila’s wage hike usually triggers similar action in the country’s other regions.

“[The] current minimum wage in the NCR is P481. But because of rising cost of services and increasing prices of basic goods, its purchasing power is P364 only,” TUCP-Nagkaisa spokesman Alan A. Tanjusay said in a text message yesterday.

Vicente R. Leogardo, Jr., director-general of the Employer’s Confederation of the Philippines and one of two management representatives in the Metro Manila’s wage board, said in a separate text that “[t]he board within 15 days from filing of petition shall conduct [a] public hearing...”

“Any party may file opposition on or before the initial hearing. Within 30 days after conclusion of [the] last hearing, the boards shall decide on the merits of the petition,” he added, declining to comment on the petition itself that will be filed today.

But the Finance department’s chief economist pointed out a possible flaw in TUCP-Nagkaisa’s computation of the proposed wage hike.

“That is their contention,” Finance Undersecretary Gil S. Beltran said in a telephone interview, when sought for comment.

“But they will have to argue based on statistics. Ang inflation rate ba nasa 24%? I don’t think so.”

The Finance official noted that consumer prices in Metro Manila generally increased by 1% last year. This was more than three times slower than the 3.2% recorded in 2014.

A family of five needed about P348 daily to meet basic food and non-food needs in the region, according to the Family Income and Expenditure Survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority for the first semester of 2015.

“I don’t think it (24%) is the appropriate inflation rate to use in computing the adjustment in wages. That’s the inflation rate during the Marcos period,” Mr. Beltran said, dismissing the possibility of this happening given the benign inflation outlook for the Philippines.