Malilong: Exaggerating on the wage hike issue

Frank Malilong

IT’S a scene that we have been witnessing year in and year out. The Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) recommends a wage increase after consulting both the labor and business sector; labor complains that the increase is not enough, and business warns that it could force employers to close shop.

This year is no exception. A few days ago, the RTWPB recommended a two-tiered daily wage rate hike: P18 for establishments that employ at least 10 workers and P10 for those who employ less. Depending on how fast the National Wages and Productivity Commission and eventually Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello can act on the RTWPB’s recommendation, the wage hike could be implemented sometime next year.

It is not going to satisfy anyone. Organized labor scoffed at the increase because, according to the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP), P18 is loose change. We are frustrated with the amount, a union official grumbled. And how much is not loose change to ALU-TUCP? P300+ increase per day, she said.

Meanwhile, the business sector is complaining that the P18 across-the-board increase could hurt the micro, small and medium enterprises. The Cebu Chamber of Commerce said a P10 daily wage increase for everyone would have been reasonable, especially for those who are still struggling to grow. In short, what is loose change to labor actually means life or death for small businesses.

Both sides are evidently exaggerating. A wage hike of P300+ per day is definitely out of this world. For manufacturers, for example, such gargantuan pay hike can only mean a massive hike in production cost, resulting in their pricing themselves out of the market. In that event, closure is no longer a remote possibility.

On the other hand, the P18 increase does not really carry dire forebodings even for the smaller companies. It will probably bring about a decrease in profits but not the loss of viability. Instead of complaining, labor and employers should thank the regional wage board for coming up with a fair and achievable compromise.

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I had almost forgotten what happened to former Kamputhaw barangay captain Lorenzo Basamot until I read in yesterday’s SunStar Cebu that he has filed a libel case against the three women who accused him of improper conduct.

Basamot is taking a big risk in keeping the issue alive instead of allowing it to die down. In filing the case, he is saying that the women lied when they claimed that he made sexual advances towards them. Truth is not always a defense in libel, but in Basamot’s case, it is. You can therefore expect the women to endeavor to prove that indeed the unwanted advances happened. It’s going to be a case of he said, she said, and it is going to be messy.

But you cannot fault Basamot if he feels aggrieved and wants the women to suffer the consequences for lying, if indeed they lied. For his sake (his late father was a friend), I hope that the confidence in filing the libel complaint comes from the conviction that not only has he not done wrong, but that he can prove it, and not from poor advice.

As accuser, he is now charged with the burden of proving his case without leaving any reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the accused. It’s a heavy burden and, as I said, the process can be messy. I assume that he knows what he’s doing.

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OOOPS! Last Tuesday, I wrote that the interest that City Hall and Filinvest agreed in principle on the unpaid balance of the purchase price of the SRP lot amounted to “hundreds of millions of dollars.” I am thoroughly embarrassed. Actually, I meant hundreds of millions of pesos. I reviewed the column a number of times and in fact sent a second draft containing my revisions, but I never noticed my mistake. I must have gotten very old. I apologize.