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Central Visayas workers seek wage hike

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Economic managers are bracing for fresh petitions for increases in daily minimum wages in the country's 17 regions that, in turn, could spur inflation beyond the central bank's 2-4% full-year target range for 2018.

SEVEN labor groups in Central Visayas have asked for an increase in the daily minimum wage for private sector workers in the region, the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) said in a press release on Sunday.

DoLE quoted Cyril L. Ticao, Region 7 director who heads the regional tripartite wages and productivity board, as citing petitions for an across-the-board increase amounting to:

• P155.80 filed by the Cebu Labor Coalition, Lonbisco Employees Organization, METAPHIL Workers Union, NUWHRAIN-Montebello Chapter, NLM-Katipunan and Union Bank Employees Association;

• and P120 by the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP).

The law sets a one-year prescriptive period from effectivity of the prevailing wage order for petitions for a fresh increase.

Wage Order No. 20, which took effect on March 10 last year, had then hiked daily minimum wage rates by P13 to P308, P323, P333 and P366 for specific cities and municipalities in the region.

Public hearings have been set on April 12 in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental; April 13, in Tagbilaran City, Bohol; April 26 in Cebu City and on May 10 in Bogo City, Northern Cebu.

The announcement comes in the wake of central bank remarks that monetary authorities are watching out for petitions for increases in daily minimum wage and public transport fares that would make inflation seep deeper into the economy.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, which has kept monetary policy steady since an interest rate hike in September 2014, said on April 6 that it would “evaluate… a measured policy response” after headline inflation breached an official 2-4% target range for full-year 2018 at 4.3% in March, marking the fastest clip in at least five years.

Central Visayas — which in 2016 had the fourth-biggest contribution to gross domestic product among the country’s 17 regions at 6.5% after Metro Manila’s 36.6%, Calabarzon’s 16.8% and Central Luzon’s 9.5% — had the third-fastest inflation nationwide in March at 5.2%, a pace it shared with Metro Manila and Bicol, after Zamboanga Peninsula’s 5.9% and Eastern Visayas’ 5.7%. That outpaced the national rate and was up from Central Visayas’ 3.8% in February that matched the nationwide pace that month of year-on-year increase in prices of basic goods.

“Wage fixing is done on a regular basis to ensure that the welfare of those in the vulnerable sector is protected. The task now of the board is to balance the interest of labor and management,” Mr. Ticao said.

“We agreed to consolidate the two petitions, which will be discussed in detail by all sectors concerned during a public hearing.”

Sought for comment, Employers Confederation of the Philippines President Donald G. Dee said in a phone interview, “We expected them to file, but let’s see what happens… if there’s basis.”

ALU-TUCP spokesman Alan A. Tanjusay said the group has asked its other regional chapters to see “if there is reason to file wage hike petition” after taxes were raised or added for many goods in January. — C. A. Aguinaldo