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Labor to petition for new wage hike

ORGANIZED labor will file a petition for a new wage increase because of supervening conditions that will arise from the implementation of the new Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion (Train) Act effective January next year.

The Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) on Wednesday said they would push for an amendment to the new tax reform law to include forward programs that would alleviate the plight of the most affected sectors through skills training, competency improvement and job windows.

“We still don’t have the figures for our wage petition. We are still in the process of consultation. We will also study the impact of the expected increase in the prices of basic commodities and services on the [current]take-home pay of workers,” ALU-TUCP spokesman Alan Tanjusay said.

Under the the law, a wage petition can only be filed a year after the latest wage increase granted by a particular Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB).

The wage board is also mandated to act motu propio or on its own to make the necessary salary adjustments for workers.

Tanjusay noted though that the RTWPBs have the habit of approving salary adjustments that do not jibe with the economic situation on the ground.

He cited as an example the P21 increase (P184 was the original petition) granted to minimum wage earners in the the National Capital Region (NCR or Metro Manila) that took effect last October.

Tanjusay pointed out that the law allows the filing of new wage petitions even less than a year after the last wage increase if there are supervening events, like series of increases in the prices of commodities and basic services.

The group opposes the government’s plan to provide discount vouchers to the poor impacted by Train, saying it would only teach people to be lazy and dependent on someone else.

It said it would be better if the government provides the poor with cash-for-work program beginning with skills training and competency improvement and providing them with jobs.

“Once millions of people become idle and lazy, it’s not sustainable, not good for our nation-building. But if we capacitate the poor to level up and give them the work opportunities, they become productive for our country, for themselves and for their families,” Tanjusay said.

He added that there are already government institutions such as the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and the Department of Labor and Employment to provide the training needed and the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Public Works and Highways to provide the job opportunities.

“We do not have to reinvent the wheel. We already have government institutions and experts in the bureaucracy who can provide the needed capacity-building and the work opportunities for the program,” Tanjusay said.

According to the group, around 15.6 million most vulnerable underground economy workers will suffer more once the Train takes effect.

Informal economy workers are those independent, self-employed, small-scale producers and distributors of goods and services. These are the jeepney drivers, tricycle drivers, pedicab drivers, taxi drivers, all kinds of vendors, sales attendants, barbers, cooks, waiters, dishwashers in carinderias (small restaurants) and canteens, tailors, sewers, porters and street sweepers.

Though the Train widened the base of those exempted from income tax from minimum wage earners to mid-level wage earners by exempting those employees getting P250,000 a year or P21,000 a month and raised taxable bonuses from P82,000 to P90,000, these cannot mitigate the impact of Train on the underground workers.

The Train will also collect excise taxes on coal, sweetened beverages and fuel and its by-products such as liquefied petroleum gas used in household cooking once enforced, increasing prices of basic commodities and cost of services including costs of electricity and water utilities.

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