Wage hike

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — Process takes more than a month

AN employers’ group was pessimistic that regional wage boards tasked to study proposed wage hikes can reach a decision on the matter in time for Labor Day.

In a radio interview, Sergio Ortiz-Luis, head of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines, said wage boards usually need at least a month to come up with a decision on any salary adjustment.

“Sa Metro Manila kahapon lang na-file. Yan may prosesong sinusunod. We will try to work mapapabilis ang proseso pero normally, sa aking pananaw, hindi bababa sa isang buwan bago makababa ng decision ang mga wage board. Hindi ko alam kung makakababa ng decision bago May 1,” he said.

Ortiz-Luis pointed out that a pay hike would not benefit those in the informal sector such as drivers, vendors and self-employed traders.

Labor groups had called for a wage hike to help wage earners cope with the rising cost of living. Some groups wanted P60 to P80 a day wage hike, while militant workers want P125 across-the-board.

Citing ECOP information, Ortiz-Luis said the formal sector shrank from 6.3 million in 2003 to 4.7 million, while the informal sector grew from 21 million in 2003 to 27 million in 2007.

“Paano mo bibigyan biyaya ang self-employed? Mabibitbit mo lang kung ang ekonomiya lumalakas na at ang trickle down effect bababa sa informal sector, pero yan nangangailangan ng ilang taon sunud-sunod pagtaas ng ekonomiya,” he said.

Hands off

Instead of a legislated wage hike, lawmakers in the House of Representatives will let the Regional Wage Board decide how much the increase in the minimum wage should be.

In a media forum, Valenzuela Rep. Maggi Gunigundo, chairman of the House Committee on Labor, said the need to increase the minimum wage is urgent, however this should be done by the regional wage boards.

“Mas mainam na ipaubaya sa present mechanism yung pagtaas ng sweldo ng manggagawa. Sa Congress kasi mas matagal ang proseso at mas mahirap na baguhin,” Gunigundo said.

At present, there is a pending bill of P125 across the board wage increase in the Lower Chamber.

However, Gunigundo said that what Congress can do to help the minimum wage earners is to give them more tax deductions.

Pending before the Committee on Ways and Means are at least 16 bills on tax exemptions and deductions.

According to Gunigundo, the Lower House is pushing for tax deductions because it will give relief to minimum earners besides wage increase.

“Ang mga colleagues natin sa Ways and Means are very willing to pass a consolidated bill on committee level, pangako nila before May 1 or Labor day,” he added.

The House wanted to raise tax deductions from the present P64,000 to P150,000.

According to Gunigundo, the wage increase without tax break is useless because the minimum wage earners will be paying bigger withholding taxes because the tax brackets will be adjusted.

“Pag nailabas yan (bill), yung manggagawa ma-eenjoy yung wage increase, at the same time hindi na sila magbabayad ng mas mataas ng buwis, pratically zero, walang withtholding tax,” Gunigundo said.