P21 wage hike expected to take effect October

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Workers stand on steel bars as they work at a construction site in Manila on May 18, 2017. — AFP

By Mario M. Banzon

THE NATIONAL Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) on Monday, Sept. 18, unanimously approved Wage Order No. NCR-21 granting workers in the National Capital Region a P21 daily wage increase.

This is now up to the Regional Tripartite Wage and Productivity Board — National Capital Region (RTWPB-NCR) to schedule the date of publication for the said wage order, an official of the Department of Labor and Employment said.

“We approved the NCR Wage Order No 21 today. And it was unanimously approved so after the approval of the NWPC of the said wage order it would be up for publication by Regional NCR and then after 15 days of notification it will take effect,” Undersecretary Bernard P. Olalia of DoLE’s Human Capital Development and Regional Operations said in an interview after a meeting by the NWPC on Monday morning.

Sought for comment, the RTWPB-NCR Board Secretary Kim S. Lagcao said in a text message: “Naka-standby na po kami kapag may (We are on standby upon the) formal endorsement (by the) NWPC that the wage order is approved. Pag wala ‘yun, hindi pa namin ma-publish (Without that, we can’t publish [the order]).”

Asked for the possible effectivity of the wage order, Mr. Lagcao said “probably October.” “ (But) as to the exact effectivity hindi pa natin (we still can’t) ma-determine,” he added.

According to David L. Diwa, NWPC Commissioner representing labor and vice-chair of Lakas Manggagawa Labor Center and President of National Labor Union, if the RTWPB-NCR “can publish it Friday or next week then it becomes effective on or before Oct. 15, 2017.”

“RTWPB-NCR can transmit our endorsement to OSEC (Office of the Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment, Secretary Silvestre H. Belo III) for his signature in two or three days. They can negotiate/reserved paid ads in two national dailies beginning tomorrow,” Mr. Diwa said in a text message.

Upon effectivity, the minimum wage for the nonagricultural sectors will be P512 while for Agriculture (Plantation and Non-Plantation), Retail/ Service Establishments employing 15 workers or less, and Manufacturing Establishments regularly employing less than 10 workers, the new wage rate will be P475.

When sought for comment, John D. Forbes, senior adviser at the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ACCP), said “for the most part, our members pay well above minimum wage.”

He also noted in his text message: “Within ASEAN, there are economies which are getting huge investments in export factories such as Vietnam with $19 billion in the first half of 2017. 320,000 Vietnamese make goods for Nike because production costs — labor, land, power — are lower there than China and the Philippines, for example. Vietnam exports five times the value of Philippine export goods. We wonder if the Philippines has a policy to compete with Vietnam or prefers to import products made in Vietnam. Maybe it is time to accelerate policies to make the Philippines more competitive.”

Donald G. Dee, president of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECoP), reiterated his remarks in an earlier interview that both labor and employers are not happy with the wage hike.

“For the record, we voted against the wage order because the wages in NCR (are) already the highest in the Southeast Asian region. We also stated that the wage increase will only benefit organized labor plus some SMEs. These will only cover, more or less, 25% of the labor pool. The rest of the workers will not benefit, yet they will have to suffer the higher prices in the coming months,” Mr. Dee said in a text message.

In addition, he said “the culprit in arriving at the increase in wages is the loss of the purchasing power and the high cost of living in the country.”

Mr. Dee also noted, “While the Regional Tripartite mechanism is a good idea, it cannot as yet be the effective policy in wage fixing.” He had previously stated that ECoP “will be making proposals to improve the purchasing power of the peso.”

For his part, Alan A. Tanjusay, spokesperson of the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP), said in a statement on Sunday the labor alliance will no longer pursue a reconsideration on its petition for a P184 daily wage hike.

The TUCP had also petitioned separately for a P259 wage hike, and another group sought an increase of P175 in four tranches.