As prices go up, labor chief wary of wage hike

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 28 2021 03:58 PM | Updated as of Jan 28 2021 04:22 PM

A construction worker wears a shirt over his face as a makeshift mask while mounting a billboard frame in Quezon City on March 30, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Thursday warned of possible business closures and loss of employment if his agency endorsed a wage hike for workers, as the prices of basic goods go up. 

The "status of employment" is more important for workers than a salary increase, he said in a public briefing. 

"If we will grant or recommend the approval of their petition na tataasan ang suweldo from P537 to P700, P750, baka hindi makayanan ng mga employer," said Bello. 

(If we will grant or recommend the approval of their petition to increase their pay from P537 to P700, P750, employers might not be able to meet this.)

The wage hike may particularly hurt micro, small and medium enterprises which might be "compelled to close shop," leading to job loss for their workers, he said. 

The highest minimum wage is in Metro Manila at P500 to P537. Meanwhile, prices of basic commodities have risen. A kilo of pork in some markets, for instance, costs as high as P380 to P400. 

The labor department needs to study any wage hike, the official said.

"Kailangan dito masusing pag-aaral (this needs thorough study)-- can the employers afford it? If they can, then by all means, we will recommend, we will adopt the petition of the workers," said Bello.

"But if they cannot, then we will have to be careful. Otherwise, we will again increase the unemployment rate. And that is the worst situation as far as our employees are concerned," he added. 

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