By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte will announce his decision on the proposed four-day workweek on March 21, the Palace spokesman said on Thursday.

“We will know the decision on Monday,” the President’s acting spokesman Jose Ruperto Martín M. Andanar told DZBB radio, according to a transcript issued by the Office of the President.

Mr. Andanar said the President will likely follow the recommendations of his economic managers.

“The important thing is that President Duterte told (Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III) … after the Secretary gave his recommendation, that whatever decision the economic cluster will make is our policy because that is their forte,” Mr. Andanar said.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua recently proposed a four-day workweek to help businesses cut costs and insulate workers from rising fuel prices.

A similar four-day week was implemented in 2008 when fuel prices were also high, Mr. Chua told Mr. Duterte late Tuesday.

The proposal requires workers to render 40 hours of work per week over four 10-hour days, Mr. Chua said at the Tuesday meeting.

Employers may implement such shortened weeks even without a new law or department order, the Labor department said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Labor Undersecretary Benjo Santos M. Benavidez said the government “can only encourage, not obligate the private sector to adopt four-day workweeks.”

“We can appeal to the private sector to implement (it) because again, it’s management prerogative, they have to decide on this and it’s within their sole jurisdiction,” he told ABS-CBN News Channel.

 He said the labor code “does not (prescribe) the minimum number of working days in a week.”

In a statement, the Trade Union Council of the Philippines (TUCP) reminded the government and private sector that the proposed compressed workweek would require the consent of workers “because it means setting aside the eight-hour workday.”

“Workers are supposed to have eight hours of work, eight hours of sleep, and eight hours with their families.  Only workers can waive the right to an eight-hour workday,” it said. “Workers must therefore be consulted regarding the compressed workweek. Workers will also have to voluntarily agree to the proposal. The agreement must be (put in) writing, and the agreement must be submitted to (the Department of Labor and Employment) to ensure monitoring and no management abuse.”

The TUCP said any flexible work arrangements must not result in the diminution of wages and benefits. “Workers’ salary during the four-day compressed work week is equivalent to the salary for five or six days of work. Also, work beyond eight hours a day must be compensated with overtime pay.”

The TUCP also warned that there might be an increase in healthcare concerns once the proposal is enforced.

“We remind the proponent both the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and the Department of Energy (DoE), that while this is a proposal to economize by lessening consumption, it will not result in the lowering of the price of petroleum products nor will it bring down the costs of goods and services,” it said.

Fuel retailers on Tuesday raised gasoline and diesel prices by P7.10 and P13.15 per liter, respectively.  Mr. Duterte has rejected calls to suspend the excise tax on fuel products.