By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter
TRADE SECRETARY Ramon M. Lopez on Wednesday said a wage hike is “dangerous” for the economy because of its impact on prices of basic goods, adding that companies may be forced to lay off employees.
“Medyo dangerous po iyon (That is a bit dangerous); but I guess, just to address certain considerations, pinag-uusapan naman po iyon sa mga (that is being discussed by the) Regional Tripartite Wage Boards. But I would say medyo delikado po iyon (that’s a bit dangerous). Nevertheless, so let them handle the wage increases. What we’re saying… the more sustaining solution for wage increases would be more jobs to be created and more investments to come in — that’s the solution to increase wages,” Mr. Lopez said in a press briefing at the Palace.
“Kasi ang problema ho natin sa wage hike (Our problem with the wage hike), [it is] mandated — again, we are referring to regional, not national. Even if we’re regional, there are of course… the reality is that, hindi po lahat (not all [regions] are) wage earners,” he also said.
“Pag nag-increase tayo diyan, tataas ang cost; pag tumaas ang cost, baka ito rin magtulak ng presyo, tumaas ang presyo ng mga bilihin. And of course ang tatamaan, buong sambayanan, hindi lang iyong wage earners (If we increase the [wages], the cost will also increase, and it may also cause the increase in prices of commodities. And of course, everyone will be affected, not only the wage earners). So those who did not benefit from the wage hike will also get affected,” he said further.
He likewise said this may also have a direct impact on the employment. “Baka mabawasan ang (It may decrease) employment,” Mr. Lopez said.
Mr. Lopez pointed out that if the Filipino people are “successful in maintaining industrial peace, that there is peace and order, rule of law, no corruption, good business environment, investment should come in, create more jobs, and that will drive up wages.”
The official likewise noted that if there is going to be an increase in workers’ wages, it should be “minimal.”
“There can be consideration because of the inflation. So if you ask me, there can be a minimal adjustment. But that should not be more than what is necessary — maybe that’s the point — because you will really create a strong pressure on inflation. But again, it’s not for me, it’s not a national policy, we will let the Regional Tripartite Wage Board handle the different economic situation in the different regions,” he said.
For Mr. Lopez, the better way to increase workers’ wages is through “skills training.”
“[That] will make workers marketable,” he said. “Panawagan ko sa labor, gawing kooperatiba lahat ng actions natin. Para mas maraming investors. Wag nating takutin ang investors. At pakita natin may industrial peace. Ang mga Pilipino willing magtrabaho, masipag, magagaling, gusto pang mag training, kasi yun po ang importante eh. Para marketable tayo bawat isa. Doon tataas ang sweldo natin. Kesa humingi tayo ng wage increase.”
(I urge the labor sector to be cooperative in their actions, so that more investors will come in. Let us not scare the investors. Let us show them that there is industrial peace in the country, and that Filipinos are willing to work, [they are] industrious, excellent, and want to be trained because these are important for us to become marketable. Our salaries will increase that way instead of our demanding a wage increase.)
Sought for comment, Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) spokesperson Alan A. Tanjusay said in part: “Mr. Lopez has forgotten that he is working in government to benefit and ensure the welfare of the people and protect not just the interest of capitalists and employers. Our wage rate is so small and inadequate that it needs constant adjustment for workers to cope and live with rising cost of living. If we do not raise their wages, workers and families will become impoverished and poor.”
“When poverty will become massive, there will be anarchy and chaos in the country and Mr. Lopez should be the first to be fed to the hungry. With a public official like Mr. Lopez in government, there will be widespread poverty and massive poverty,” Mr. Tanjusay also said.
By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter