By Charmaine A. Tadalan
THE MAKABAYAN bloc on Monday filed a House Bill (HB) proposing to increase the nationwide minimum wage to P750, citing inflationary effects of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law.
“A P750 national minimum wage is what workers need now to somehow cope with the surging prices of goods and services further spiked by the harsh effects of TRAIN law,” Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani T. Zarate said in a statement.
HB 7787, the proposed National Minimum Wage Law of 2018, also proposes to abolish the National Wages Productivity Commission (NWPC) and the regional wage boards (RTWPB) and repeal Articles 121, 122, and 123 of the Labor Code of the Philippines.
The bill also provides measures against downsizing and what it deemed other unfair labor practices.
Stiffer penalties will also be imposed on violators, including a fine equivalent to the total amount of the wage increment due to the employees, multiplied by the number of unpaid working days, and/or three to five years of imprisonment.
Further, the erring employer may also be charged with moral damages of P50,000 per employee, in addition to an amount double the unpaid benefits owed from the employee.
Business permits will also be subject to suspension for a month to up to three years. For third offenses, business permits will be cancelled. For corporations, trusts, or firms, the penalties will be imposed on responsible officers, such as the president, vice-president, and chief executive officer, among others.
Meanwhile in Malacañang, Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque in his press briefing said, “That is legally impossible because we cannot impose a national minimum wage now, because the regional wage boards are created by law.”
Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III is set to meet with the regional boards, as well as with officials of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, National Economic and Development Authority, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Energy, Department of Agriculture, and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board.
He said the boards in Central Luzon, Western Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula and Davao region are expected to issue new wage orders. “I have instructed them to fast-track their public hearing and thereafter issue a new Wage Order,” Mr. Bello said.
According to the NWPC, wage orders issued by the Board cannot be disturbed for 12 months since their effectivity date. But, if the Board finds supervening conditions, a wage hike may be imposed immediately in that region.
“There are guidelines which say a board can declare a supervening condition. Once the commission confirms, it only applies to the board that has declared a supervening condition,” Labor Undersecretary Ciriaco A. Lagunzad said.
For its part, NWPC Executive Director Maria Criselda R. Sy said price hikes of basic goods is but one of the factors to be considered in increasing wage.
Di lang prices ng basic commodities ang tinitignan natin (We’re not only looking at prices of basic commodities),” Ms. Sy said. “(According to) RA 6727, there are ten criteria we have to take into consideration. (These are) categorized into the needs of workers and their families, capacity of employers to pay, and requirements of economic development.”
Mr. Lagunzad seconded this, saying inflation varies across regions. — with Gillian M. Cortez and Arjay L. Balinbin