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House to tackle legislated wage hike despite wage order

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THE HOUSE of Representatives labor committee would still hold hearings on proposed legislated wage hikes despite a regional wage board order increasing the salaries of workers in Metro Manila.

The House body would seek to balance the interests of workers and employers by arriving at a compromise, Rizal Rep. Juan Fidel Felipe F. Nograles, who heads the committee, said in a statement on Tuesday.

“We will continue our congressional hearings on the proposed wage increases,” he said. “What we want is to find a compromise tending to the needs of our workers while not bankrupting businesses.”

The Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board last month increased the minimum wages of workers in the National Capital Region (NCR) by P35 pesos to P645. The order will take effect on July 17.

The government should look at the wage issue comprehensively by addressing issues in the agriculture, energy, and education sectors to reduce living expenses, Mr. Nograles said.

“The wage increase is not the only solution,” he said in mixed English and Filipino. “We also need to implement sustainable measures in agriculture, transport, energy, education and health.”

Inflation quickened to a six-month high in May to 3.9% from 3.8% in April. It was the fastest inflation since 4.1% in November.

The local statistics agency said food accounted for 56.6% or 2.2 percentage points of May inflation. Restaurants contributed 13.2% or 0.5 point, while transport had an 8.2% share or 0.3 point.

Also on Tuesday, senators said the P35 wage hike for private sector workers was a paltry increase.

“It is clear that this is not enough and it is far from what our countrymen need in the middle of high prices of goods,” Senate President Francis “Chiz” G. Escudero said in a statement.

He said P100 should be the minimum increase. The Senate in February passed a bill mandating an across-the-board wage hike for private sector workers.

The House of Representatives has yet to pass its counterpart bill.

Wage boards should consider the cost of living when deciding on wage hikes, Mr. Escudero said.

Senator Juan Miguel F. Zubiri said the increase is “grossly insufficient” to buy basic needs such as food and rice.

“The wage boards should remember that they should look after the welfare of workers first before considering the impact of their decisions on employers,” he said in a separate statement.

Unity for Wage Increase Now sought a P597 increase in daily wages, while four hospital employee groups and the Pasig Labor Alliance for Democracy and Development sought a P750 hike.

Labor groups have criticized the increase, reiterating the need to pass a legislated wage hike to help workers cope with rising prices.

“While we welcome the P35 daily minimum wage hike, this is not enough to cover the daily needs of our workers, especially those who need to provide for their families,” Senator Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva said in a statement.

But Senate President Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” P. Estrada, Jr., who had sponsored a Senate bill seeking a P100 increase in the daily minimum wages of private sector workers, said the P35 pay hike was “not just timely, but essential.”

“We must strike a balance between ensuring fair wages for our workers and supporting the growth and sustainability of our micro, small and medium enterprises,” he said in a separate statement.

“Providing incentives and support for these businesses will help them adapt to wage increases while continuing to thrive and contribute to economic growth,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said it would help businesses remain resilient after the wage order for Metro Manila.

In a statement, Trade Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual said businesses might encounter “challenges” because of the wage hike.

“Therefore, it is crucial to strike a balance between the needs of our workers and the sustainability of our enterprises,” he said. “The DTI remains steadfast in its commitment to supporting industries through this transition.”

“We will continue to provide assistance and implement programs that promote business resilience and competitiveness, ensuring that our economy thrives and remains robust,” he added.

Mr. Pascual said the wage hike is “a significant step towards enhancing the welfare of our workers.” “This increase is a timely response to the escalating costs of living, reflecting our shared commitment to improving the quality of life for our workforce.” — Kenneth Christiane L. Basilio, John Victor D. Ordoñez and Justine Irish D. Tabile

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