ARROYO  TO  UNVEIL  BENEFITS  FOR  WORKERS  ON  LABOR  DAY

MANILA, April 30, 2005
(STAR) By Paolo Romero and Mayen Jaymalin  -  A long weekend and a pay hike are in the offing as government’s Labor Day gift to workers.

President Arroyo will announce tomorrow a package of benefits meant to ease the economic burden shouldered by workers who must contend with rising prices of goods, fuel and electricity.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said this as he denied speculations that the President issued Proclamation No. 837, declaring Monday a non-working holiday, to blunt the impact of possible protest actions to be staged by militant labor groups and leftist organizations.

Bunye hinted that Mrs. Arroyo may announce wage increases as approved by various regional wage boards (RWBs) for workers in the private sector.

"We’re open to reasonable (wage) adjustments," he said, speaking for the government side of the tripartite RWBs, which are also composed of representatives from the employers and labor sectors.

Government workers, on the other hand, must wait until next year for new salary increases, since wage hikes were not provided for in the 2005 national budget, Bunye added.

The President issued the proclamation "in recognition of the contribution of the labor sector both at home and abroad to the economic progress of the country," Bunye said.

In the proclamation signed by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, the President said Labor Day, which is observed as a regular holiday on May 1 and falls on a Sunday this year, "may be declared as a special (non-working) day pursuant to existing laws, rules and regulations."

Additional Pay

Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas said workers are entitled to additional overtime pay of as much as 230 percent of their daily wage rate over the next two days if they choose to report for work on Monday, May 2, which was declared a non-working day by the President.

"Under the law, those who would report for work are entitled to receive an additional 30 percent of their regular daily rate plus 30 percent for services rendered in excess of eight hours," she said.

If the holiday also falls on the employee’s rest day but the employee still opts to report to work, the employer must provide an additional 50 percent of the worker’s daily wage and an additional 30 percent for services rendered in excess of eight hours.

If employees decide to take the day off on May 2, the "no work, no pay" policy applies unless company policy or a collective bargaining agreement grants payment.

May 1 remains a regular holiday, thus workers are entitled to double their regular daily wage and earn another 30 percent for services rendered in excess of eight hours, Sto. Tomas said.

Workers must also get 100 percent of their daily pay even if they choose to enjoy the holiday instead of reporting to work on Labor Day.

This year’s Labor Day theme is : "Pambansang Pagkakaisa Tungo sa Disenteng Trabaho (National Unity Towards Decent Employment)."

Commemoration

The President will lead workers in commemorating the 103rd year of the country’s labor movement, which will include simultaneous job fairs nationwide sponsored by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP).

Bunye said the Labor Day celebrations will begin with a Mass for national unity and a meeting with moderate labor groups belonging to the Labor Solidarity Movement to discuss the issue of wages and other labor-related matters.

This will be followed by a formal program organized by different labor groups. Some 300 workers from the organized labor and overseas Filipino worker (OFW) sector are expected to attend the celebration. TUCP president Democrito Mendoza will deliver his remarks and the "Workers’ Manifesto" will be read and presented to President Arroyo by labor leader Vic Balais.

Mrs. Arroyo is expected to deliver a brief speech that details her administration’s plans to help workers, Bunye said.

He said the President had a fruitful discussion with key labor leaders, who were accompanied to Malacañang by Sto. Tomas Tuesday.

"It was a very frank and honest discussion that led to some initial consensus points on how to strengthen the tripartite spirit in order to help our workers," he said.

He said Mrs. Arroyo was pleased with the willingness of labor leaders to help the administration in its anti-corruption and energy conservation campaigns.

He also said the President listened very carefully to the grievances of workers – including the lengthy period involved in the disposition of labor cases, contractualization of services, rising prices of basic goods and other issues.

Present at the meeting were: National Congress of Sugar Industry Union in the Philippines president Zoilo dela Cruz; Philippine Federation of Labor president Alejandro Villaviza; Kilusan sa Paggawa president Avelino Valerio; Alyansa ng Manggagawa president Roberto Flores; TUCP’s Vladimir Tupaz; KAIBIGAN-OFW secretary Cesar Tribuleta; Cecilio Seno of the Associated Labor Unions; Federation of Free Workers lawyers Julius Cainglet and Sonny Matula; Philippine Organization of Labor Unions’ Gregorio del Prado; and TUCP spokesman Alex Aguilar.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz allayed fears that anti-government elements might take advantage of Labor Day rallies to launch another destabilization plot against the Arroyo administration.

Cruz said the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are fully capable of maintaining peace and order.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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