By Beatriz Marie D. Cruz, Reporter

LABOR GROUPS have urged Congress to pass bills improving security of tenure and raising wages next year, citing workers’ rights norms set by the International Labor Organization (ILO).

The Federation of Free Workers (FFW) said such bills are “crucial for advancing workers’ rights and improving working conditions across the nation.”

“Their enactment will ensure more stable and secure employment for millions, leading to a more committed and productive workforce,” FFW President Jose G. Matula said in a Viber message.

He said a security of tenure law would end contractual employment schemes that do not offer a path to permanent employment and its associated benefits.

Mr. Matula also called for a review of the current mechanism for approving regional wages “in favor of a one national minimum wage mechanism to remove wage discrimination and simplify implementation.”

The group also supported the passage of a P150 minimum wage hike to “combat the rising cost of living, ensuring [that] workers can maintain a decent standard of living.”

“Higher wages will boost consumption demand and drive wage-led growth,” Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) legislative officer Carlos Miguel S. Oñate said via Viber.

Senate President Juan Miguel F. Zubiri in March filed a bill seeking to increase the minimum wage for workers by P150.

However, Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno and National Economic and Development Authority Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan have warned that a P150 legislated wage hike would stoke inflation.

“The Philippines’ minimum wage figures are lower compared with those of other Southeast Asian countries,” Mr. Matula said, citing the equivalent minimum wages for Indonesia (P842 per day), Malaysia (P854 per day), and Singapore (P2,486 per day).

The FFW also supported the passage of the Freedom of Association bill to safeguard the rights of workers seeking to form unions and engage in collective bargaining free of harassment.

“The bill also must remove harsh penalties on illegal strikes and to curb the power of the Secretary of Labor to assume jurisdiction over industries in the national interest,” Mr. Matula added, saying that such powers should be limited to essential services only.

The TUCP also called for the passage of the Union Formation bill, in “response to the ILO’s longstanding observation of excessive registration requirements for workers’ organizations.”

House Bill (HB) No. 5536, or the proposed Assumption of Jurisdiction bill, Mr. Oñate said, would amend the Labor Code by limiting the Secretary of Labor’s power to assume jurisdiction in the case of labor disputes in “industries providing essential services,” as against his current power to intervene in “industries indispensable to national interest.”

TUCP also expressed support for HB 7043, which seeks to remove dismissal and imprisonment as penalties for illegal strikes and lockouts; for HB 1514, recognizing civil service equivalency for public sector casual and contractual workers; and for HB 1516 or the magna carta for informal economy workers.

Confederation for Unity, Recognition, and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE) President Santiago Y. Dasmariñas, Jr. said the organization supports measures on legislated wage hikes, the regularization of contractuals, and the Public Service Labor Relations bill.

Congress will resume its regular sessions on Jan. 22.

Last week, the Senate ratified the 2019 ILO convention to eliminate workplace violence and harassment.

The jobless rate fell to 4.2% in October, the Philippine Statistics Authority said on Dec. 7. Job quality improved with underemployment rate falling to 11.7%, translating to 5.6 million underemployed workers who are seeking more work or longer working hours.