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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Crying bias, labor wants Neda to skip pay hike talks

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A LABOR group wants the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Board representative in the regional wage board in the National Capital Region (NCR) to skip deliberations of the pending P100 wage hike petition, citing bias by the Neda chief.

Kapatiran ng mga Unyon at Samahang Manggagawa (Kapatiran) questioned the objectivity of the representative after Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan, also Neda director general, warned Congress last week of the “harmful” effects of a legislated wage hike to the country’s economy.

Balisacan said wage hikes should be based on labor productivity and worker demand instead.

BusinessMirror sought out the country’s chief economist for his response to the labor group’s call for recusation on account of Neda’s alleged bias, but no response was obtained from him as of press time.

“Neda Director General Arsenio Balisacan has already prejudged the wage hike petition by his declaration that a salary increase is detrimental to the economy,” Kapatiran president Rey Almendras said in a statement.

“The Neda NCR Director who is vice chair of the NCR regional wage board cannot be expected to be impartial on the P100 wage hike petition given the very public opposition by his or her boss,” he added.

Almendras called out Neda for continuing to link productivity with wage increases even though there have been scant pay hikes in previous years.

“From 2001 to 2016, real wages stagnated while labor productivity increased by 50 percent and the economy grew by 100 percent,” Almendras ppointed out.

“Capitalists are profit-maximizing actors. They will not automatically adjust wages in line with productivity,” he added.

Ibon Foundation Executive Director Sonny Africa also lamented the stance made by Balisacan at the House of Representatives regarding the minimum wage.

Balisacan’s position on the wage hike was also made on the sidelines of the Makati Business Club’s recent forum. Balisacan said increasing wages because of the availability of more jobs and/or an increase in productivity, however, would not lead to higher inflation. (Full story here: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2023/02/24/wage-hikes-may-only-fan-inflation/)

Ibon said worker wages have not kept up with their productivity which has increased. NCR worker productivity increased 42 percent between 2012 and 2021 based on gross regional domestic product divided by employment.

But, Ibon said, the minimum wage only increased 18 percent. This has “bloated corporate profits” which, for the top 1,000 firms, surged 68 percent during the period.

Ibon added that the minimum wage has also not kept up with inflation. Based on their estimates, real wages fell 5 percent using 2018 prices.

“It is perplexing for the economic team to speak about workers and their wages as if they’re burdens to the economy,” Africa said in a statement.

“It’s people who most of all create value in the economy and whom the economy should benefit. To speak of ‘the economy’ as something different from their conditions and welfare is insensitive and unfair,” he added.

Kapatiran filed its P100 wage petition before the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board-NCR (RTWPB-NCR) in December to help workers in the region cope with high inflation.

The petition is currently still pending.

In an SMS, DOLE-NCR Regional Director and RTWPB-NCR chairperson Sarah S. Mirasol told BusinessMirror they cannot compel  any of their members to inhibit themselves from a wage petition deliberation.

She said it will be up to their member to decide if he or she will vote during the said deliberation.

“The [RTWPB] rules are silent on the inhibition of a member from acting on wage petition. The member may vote yes, no or abstain from acting or make reservations,” Mirasol said.

With reports from Cai Ordinario

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