While government employees across the country received some good news ahead of tomorrow’s Labor Day, workers in Cebu and the rest of Central Visayas will have to wait longer for any salary increase to be approved by their wage board.
President Benigno Aquino III has announced that government workers will get their pay raise one month ahead of its planned release this July.
He said this was his “surprise gift” to government workers tomorrow.
“It’s a substantial number of zeroes,” Mr. Aquino said of the pay hike for government workers.
In contrast, the Regional Tripartite and Productivity Board in Central Visayas (RTWPB-7) has yet to decide on a wage petition filed last month.
The Alliance of Progressive Labor in Cebu (APL) filed a P90 across-the-board wage increase petition last March, citing rising fuel prices and fare rates as their basis.
The petition was opposed by Cebu’s business community.
APL chairman Joe Tomongha said it was the Central Visayas labor groups that first submitted a wage increase petition to the Department of Labor and Employment and it became the basis for similar wage petitions in Regions 5 and 12.
President Aquino said the government has been authorized to give pay increases to government workers through the Salary Standardization Law III (SSL III).
During a visit in Mindoro Oriental, the President said the only question was whether the government could advance the fourth and final tranche of the SSL 3.
“So the SSL 3 can be completed perhaps one month earlier than the planned implementation,” said President Aquino.
The fourth tranche of the SSL 3 is scheduled to be released in July.
President Aquino said he will have a breakfast meeting with labor leaders in Malacañang scheduled for tomorrow.
In Cebu, Tomongha lamented that it doesn’t take long for wage boards in regions like Western Visayas, Cagayan Valley, Bicol, Davao and Southern Tagalog to determine if there are supervening events that would warrant a wage increase.
Tomongha said they will question the data presented by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and the Department of Trade and Industry on the region’s inflation rate and consumer price index.
He said while Neda and DTI pegged the region’s inflation rate at 1.9 percent, their figures showed that Central Visayas recorded a 4.6 inflation rate from September last year to March this year.
Tomongha said they based their figures from records of the National Statistics Office just like Neda and DTI.
About 21 labor groups in Central Visayas signed a unity statement, pushing for a wage increase this year.
Members of unions and workers’ groups in Cebu formed a coalition named Nagkaisa, a coalition also present in other parts of the country.
In their wage hike petition, APL cited government figures last December that showed that the purchasing power of the latest minimum wage of P305/daily was only P157.00, which meant a reduction of 51.5 percent.
The group said the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in Central Visayas also rose from P121.4 to P122.9 or the equivalent of P1.24 percent from June last year to February this year.
But business leaders like Cebu Business Club president Gordon Alan “Dondi” Joseph earlier told Cebu Daily News that the P90-wage increase petition was untimely.
He said both the government and the private sector should focus on job creation.
“You know, wage increases will not solve the problems of the economy or the increasing cost of living. The government has to focus on creating jobs, creating more employment for more Filipinos,” Joseph said.
While agreeing that the current costs of living have risen in recent days, Joseph said the solution is not through wage increases but through a reward system based on productivity and profit-sharing.
“It’s better to have three people with jobs earning P400 compared to one person earning P490’, Joseph said.
If the country’s labor costs becomes prohibitive, investments will go to other countries in Asia, he added. /Carine M. Asutilla, Correspondent with a report from Correspondent Jhunnex Napallacan and Inquirer