ECoP wants economic managers’ input on bill raising wages by P150

THE Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECoP) said economic managers may not have been properly consulted by the Senate, which is trying to bring forward legislation to effect an across-the-board minimum wage hike.

“We have faith in Senate President Juan Miguel F. Zubiri, but he might not have consulted with the concerned government agencies on his proposal yet,” ECoP President Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis, Jr. said during a televised briefing on Wednesday.

He said senators need to consult the National Economic and Development Authority, the Department of Trade and Industry, and the Department of Labor and Employment before passing a wage hike bill.

Mr. Zubiri’s Senate Bill 2002 calls for a national minimum wage hike of P150 for the private sector, including agricultural workers.

Mr. Ortiz-Luis said workers in private companies only account for about 16% of the workforce, adding that the legislated wage hike proposal should consider the situation of workers in less formal employment.

“If you raise the pay of the private sector workers, it is only increasing the pay of a small percentage of the workforce,” he said. “What about the large percentage of our workers such as our farmers, fisherfolk, and market vendors?”

The Nagkaisa labor coalition on Tuesday urged President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. to certify the Senate bill as urgent.

It said Congress is an alternative avenue for raising wages since employers and foreign investors typically object to wage hikes pursued via the normal channel of regional wage boards.

In March, Unity for Wage Increase Now! sought to raise the P570 daily minimum wage in Metro Manila to P1,100. The region’s wage board approved a P33 minimum wage hike in June 2022.

Every wage order approved by a Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board is subject to final approval by the Labor secretary.

Wage boards can only act on wage petitions a year after a region’s last wage order.

“ECoP will continue working with government agencies to address the jobs mismatch and to provide skills training programs for our workers,” Mr. Ortiz-Luis said.

Mr. Ortiz-Luis, in a separate phone conversation with BusinessWorld, said the high cost of doing business in the Philippines is the result of high production costs.

“Fuel prices are high, our agricultural sector is behind — we import (commodities like) sugar, we have no (proper) irrigation… our supply chain is also struggling with transportation issues,” Mr. Ortiz-Luis said.

Speaking at a Senate hearing, Ferdinand Ferrer, a member of the ECoP board of governors, said employers will find it difficult to raise wages because the cost of doing business has also risen.

“We feel for the employees definitely but on the other side of the coin, the cost of doing business also has increased,” he said at a hearing of the Senate Labor, Employment, and Human Resources Development committee on Wednesday.

Mr. Ferrer called for measures to strengthen purchasing power, noting that the P470 daily wage set by the wage board in the Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) region is not enough to pay for basic commodities like food and transportation.

Headline inflation eased to 6.6% in April from 7.6% a month earlier, but remained higher than the 4.9% rate posted a year earlier, the Philippine Statistics Authority said last week.

Mr. Zubiri told the hearing that the Senate has passed “incentives” benefiting companies under the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act, by lowering the corporate income tax to 25% from 30%.

“Since we gave you guys fiscal incentives, allow us to give also fiscal space and a decent wage for our laborers,” Mr. Zubiri told the committee.

SB 2002 is known as the proposed Across-the-Board Wage Increase Act of 2023. It calls for wages to be increased regardless of employer size or headcount.

Kilusang Mayo Uno Chairman Elmer C. Labog called for a legislated wage increase, saying “the recurring low salaries of workers contributes to the increasing wealth gap between the rich and the poor.”

He told senators that the salary of workers in the Capital region increased by 18% over the last decade, even with productivity growing 42% within the same period.

Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa Secretary-General Joshua T. Mata called for the elimination of regional wage boards. “Let’s come up with one national minimum wage that does not discriminate between agricultural and non-agricultural workers,” he told Senators.

Labor Secretary Bienvenido E. Laguesma said the largest daily wage increase in registered collective bargaining agreements for small enterprises is P75, and the lowest P1, as of March 31, 2023.

Mr. Laguesma added that nine wage petitions have been filed between Dec. 31 and April — two each in the National Capital Region, Calabarzon, and the Western Visayas, and three in the Central Visayas.

He said that the Labor department and the National Wages and Productivity Commission are not “oppositors” or “outright supporters” of the bill, noting their role as a “consultative and advisory body… (to help the committee arrive) at a mutually beneficial solution that will address the concerns of both labor and employers’ sectors.”

The panel created a technical working group to fine-tune the measure. — John Victor D. Ordoñez, Beatriz Marie D. Cruz