Metro Manila wages up P22/day

New range for metropolis is P367-404, to take effect later this month

06/07/10 - DAILY MINIMUM WAGES in Metro Manila were ordered hiked by P22 yesterday, kicking off a round of nationwide adjustments shelved last year amid the global economic downturn.

Full details of the wage order were not immediately available but officials confirmed the adjustment, which is lower than the P75 sought by a labor group.

Minimum wages in Metro Manila currently range from P345-382 per day. A P22 increase would bring this up to P367-404. The last adjustment, which took effect in June 2008, added P15 to the basic rate and included a P5 cost of living allowance that was later integrated.

The P22 increase was confirmed yesterday by National Wages and Productivity Commission executive director Ciriaco A. Lagunzad III and National Economic and Development Authority policy and planning director Dennis M. Arroyo.

Both declined to provide more details.

"The decision came out by late afternoon today. I’m not sure yet when this will be implemented. We need to come up with implementing rules and regulations for this first," Mr. Arroyo said.

Alberto R. Quimpo, corporate secretary of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) and a member of the Metro Manila wage board, said the increase was in the daily rate.

It would take effect 15 days after the wage order’s publication, he added.

Business groups criticized the decision, saying many of their member firms might not be able to afford the increase.

The ECOP particularly expressed dismay over the timing, claiming companies were still feeling "the lingering effect of the 2008 crisis.

"Everybody is still suffering. That is why government has the stimulus package. And there’s the European debt crisis. There could be another global financial crisis," ECOP President Edgardo G. Lacson said.

Businessmen will also have to deal with pay scale distortions, Mr. Lacson claimed, with managers earning just a little more than rank and file workers.

"And where will our competitiveness be? The Philippines now has the highest minimum wage among six developing countries in Asia. We’re higher than Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand," he added.

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) also expressed disappointment but said it would urge its members to comply.

"Businessmen could have supported up to a P15 increase. P22 is beyond our expectations," PCCI President Francis C. Chua said in a separate telephone interview.

"But since it’s the wage board [that ordered the hike], we will have to follow. We’ll ask our members to comply but it will put pressure on many sectors," he said.

After shelving annual demands -- usually made before May 1 -- for higher salaries on account of the global downturn, labor groups late last year began the process of seeking adjustments to minimum wages.

As 2009 drew to a close, the Western Visayas, Central Visayas and Zamboanga peninsula regional wage boards received petitions for P50, P128.60, and P50 across the board salary increases.

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) in March filed a petition for a P75 per day increase in Metro Manila, Davao, and Cagayan de Oro, which it then said would be replicated in other regions nationwide.

Reacting to the P22 increase, the TUCP said it welcomed the wage board’s decision that an adjustment was warranted, but added it was disappointed over the amount.

"[W]e will file a petition for reconsideration ... should the RTWPB (regional tripartite wages and productivity board) fail to act ... we will seek redress in Congress for a legislated wage," it said.

Wage increases in the Philippines are decided at the regional level via tripartite wage boards, created in 1989 by virtue of Republic Act 6727 which removed the power of wage fixing from Congress. (BusinessWorld)

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