MANILA, Philippines–Metro Manila workers may get their long-sought minimum wage hike next week but the amount may be smaller than they had asked for, Labor Secretary Arturo Brion said Saturday.
“I’m expecting a development on the week of July 23,” Brion told reporters when asked about the pending P75-minimum wage hike petition filed by the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines.
He added that the regional tripartite wages and productivity board in Metro Manila was already wrapping up its deliberations and expected to come out with a ruling on or before July 28, the deadline he had set.
“I hope they will already have a decision by that time,” he said.
Brion said he does not have an idea of the exact amount of increase to be granted by the board, but he added that it would be “definitely” lower than what TUCP had asked for.
“Historically we never approved the same amount as stated in the petition, so it would probably be lower than the P75 demand,” he said.
The Secretary ruled out an announcement of the wage hike by President by Macapagal-Arroyo in her State of the Nation Address on Monday.
“It’s unlikely because the wage board would not complete its deliberations by that time,” Brion added.
TUCP filed its petition last April, citing the need to increase the daily take-home pay of workers to restore their purchasing power following higher fuel costs that led to a rise in the prices of commodities and services.
The Metro Manila wage board last granted a P25-basic pay adjustment in 2006., bringing the existing minimum wage to P350 per day.
Meanwhile, militant workers groups said they would revive their bid for a P125-across the board, nationwide minimum pay hike in Congress.
The Kilusang Mayo Uno and other groups managed to secure the passage of the wage bill by the House of Representatives and elevate the proposal to the Senate, but the House subsequently withdrew the measure.
“We have learned many lessons and we have crafted new strategies in approaching this struggle,” KMU national chair Elmer Labog said.
For its part, the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino rejected the President’s statement that she would announce the income tax exemption of minimum wage earners in her speech to Congress on Monday.
BMP president Leody de Guzman said “mere token efforts” won’t solve the burgeoning problem of Filipino workers. He said the latest government action is a case of “too little, too late”, since the administration has been promising the exemption since she was installed as president after the 2004 national elections.
De Guzman said tax exemption is “hypocritical,” adding, “After all, this regime already squeezed its needed revenues out of the blood and sweat of Filipino workers through its gargantuan consumption taxes, such as the Revitalized Value Added Tax (R-VAT) implemented February last year.
De Guzman complained that the R-VAT increased the cost-of-living way beyond what a common worker can afford, explaining that the purchasing power of workers is not enough. “How would workers afford prime commodities which had increased in prices, when their salaries never increased at all?” he said.