MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III dismissed calls for a P125 increase in wages for workers in private companies, saying this will bring down the struggling economy.
In his Labor Day speech, Aquino delivered what he said are feasible plans for workers, contrary to the wishes of labor groups for higher wages and more benefits.
He said he is laying down real solutions to the labor market’s woes, instead of promises that can only be described later as politicking.
“The real solutions are described in four points. One, to retain the already available jobs here. Two, create more jobs. Three, add to the knowledge of our workers so that the value chain will be increased. Four, ensure the implementation of laws,” he said in Filipino.
Aquino said that if the P125 across the board wage increase is implemented, it would amount to P1.4 trillion in cash, a big chunk of the country’s gross domestic product.
“Businessmen will only make up for their losses, through cost-cutting or increase prices of their services,” he added.
In the end, more than half a million of Filipinos will lose their jobs, he said.
He noted the daily wages in the country are already on par with other markets abroad, and are, in fact, higher than in neighboring countries. The $9 to $10 daily wage in the country is higher than the $2 in Cambodia, $2.24 to $3.21 in Vietnam and $3.05 to $5.27 in Indonesia.
“Who will want to invest here if the labor cost is too high?” Aquino said.
Nonetheless, Aquino said he has already ordered the regional tripartite wage boards to fast-track public consultations and the passage of wage orders across the country.
He said that the wage increase last year, the P22 cost of living allowance, was a 5.44% increase vis-à-vis the 4.8% inflation.
“It would be better that the wage boards review the increase in wages,” he added.
He said the government would want to ensure that workers are adept with the right knowledge. He said projects are already in place to make Filipinos competitive in the tourism, agriculture, BPO, and electronics industries.
He said both the Social Service System and Government Service Insurance System are ready to release P11.2 billion for an education assistance fund.
He said the government is also working to stop contractualization in the industries.
He asked the private sector that programs are already rolling.
“Do not be jealous of the workers in government,” he said. He announced anew that the fourth tranche of the Salary Standardization Law for government workers will be implemented one month ahead of schedule, or in June.