[PHOTO COURTESY OF YAHOO NEWS - Filipino workers chant during a Labor Day rally in Manila, Philippines on Sunday May 1, 2011. Filipino workers went to the streets to observe Labor Day as they call for the immediate implementation of wage increase.(AP Photo/Aaron Favila)]

MANILA, MAY 2, 2011 (STAR) By Delon Porcalla - As promised, here’s good news for the 1.1 million government workers.

Starting June 1 – or a month ahead of schedule – all employees and officials of the government will be getting the third tranche of their salary increase pursuant to the Salary Standardization Law III (SSL III), President Aquino revealed yesterday.

“You heard it right. Salary increases will be implemented this June and not this July,” Aquino told moderate labor groups who attended a breakfast meeting with him yesterday.

“We made it earlier because I know this would mean a lot, especially since it’s enrollment period once again. Why should we postpone it when we can already do it today,” Aquino said, drawing loud applause from the crowd.

When asked in an informal interview with Palace reporters, the Chief Executive said the funds for the purpose have been sourced from savings the government accumulated over the past 10 months of his administration.

President Aquino commended Budget Secretary Florencio Abad for the savings, which they got from the funds for personnel services. He said there has been P19.5 billion in total savings, P2.8 billion of which is allocated to fund the third tranche of the salary increase.

Meantime, following the President’s announcement, the Department of Budget and Management has already drafted the Executive Order (EO) advancing the implementation of salary increases for government workers.

Abad said this EO is now ready for the President’s signature and may be issued within the week, together with a Memorandum Order, which is needed for the early release of mid-year bonuses of government agencies.

“We hope that the early implementation of SSL III third tranche and the early release of mid-year bonuses will help government employees cope with rising costs of commodities,” Abad said.

Quarterly meeting

The President said he wants to meet leaders of various labor groups – perhaps with the exception of the radical militant groups who reject government invitations – not once but four times a year.

Aquino said he wants to craft a labor policy for the country that would go beyond his six-year term in 2016, where fruits of such discussions will ultimately redound to the benefit of everybody, both employers and workers.

“Let’s not just talk when Labor Day comes, so we can discuss issues and come up with solutions,” the Chief Executive pointed out.

According to the President, his vow of transparency and consultation will not be mere lip service, and will not be trumpeted as good news, but rather as a means where both workers and employers can reach something that is doable.

Rice subsidy

President Aquino also announced yesterday the P4.23-billion rice subsidy the government will provide to farmers and fisherfolk, on top of the P2-billion farm inputs already in the pipeline.

[PHOTO COURTESY OF 'HUMAN RIGHTS PHILIPPINES' - Labor Unity Mob for PALEA at Mendiola 4/12/2011 photo by Rommel Yamzon]

He told moderate labor groups in Malacañang that both measures are aimed at easing the pain of workers in the face of continued increases in the prices of petroleum products that have adversely affected the prices of basic commodities for the consuming public.

Smart cards for the P450-million Pantawid Pasada or fuel subsidy for jeepney and tricycle drivers will be distributed by the Department of Energy today, although Aquino said what they are making sure of is that these will not fall into the wrong hands.

Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said smart cards will be distributed by the LTFRB for franchise holders of public utility jeepneys, while the Department of Interior and Local Government will take charge of the tricycle drivers all over the country.

Almendras said smart cards can only be utilized two or three days after it has been issued, after concerned government agencies have confirmed that only the entitled beneficiaries have been given the subsidy.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda earlier said the government is willing to add P1 billion to the P450 million fuel subsidy and extend it even further for a few months.

Lacierda said the government can make the augmentation due to the lower budget deficit this year.

Fewer applicants

In a related development, fewer applicants were recorded in the various job fairs the labor department conducted yesterday.

Labor Undersecretary Hans Leo Cacdac said that as of 1 p.m. yesterday, they recorded a total of 10,625 job applicants nationwide.

The figure, Cacdac said, excludes those from five regions which have yet to submit their reports on the outcome of the job fairs.

But although the number of job applicants may be relatively low considering that vacancies offered reached as high as 210,000, Cacdac maintained that the job fairs marking Labor Day were successful.

“The number of job applicants that came was good enough and based on trends we have reached our target of 10 to 15 percent on-the-spot hiring,” Cacdac said.

He also expressed confidence that more jobseekers would be coming later in the day when the temperature is no longer so hot.

Close to 2,000 government agencies and private companies joined the job and livelihood fairs and offered immediate employment, but many applicants came to apply with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.

As of noon yesterday, the AFP and the PNP reported that they have recorded close to 200 jobs applicants at the Quirino Grandstand alone.

The two agencies offered over 3,000 vacancies for nurses and other administrative personnel.

PNP Supt. Carter Balanos said only half of the applicants seem to qualify for the positions they are offering, but he expressed optimism that their participation in the Labor Day job fairs would boost their recruitment process.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz earlier said thousands of jobs would be offered during the event, but she admitted that a high number of applicants may not qualify for the available vacancies.

However, she advised jobseekers, particularly new graduates and those without any work experience, to accept any job that would be offered to them so they could gain the necessary experience to apply for higher paying positions. – With Mayen Jaymalin

Militants push P125 wage increase By Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) Updated May 02, 2011 12:00 AM

[PHOTO - An image of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III is set on fire during a Labor Day rally in Manila, Philippines on Sunday May 1, 2011. Filipino workers went to the streets to observe Labor Day as they call for the immediate implementation of wage increase. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)]

MANILA, Philippines - Militant labor groups pressed yesterday for a P125 across-the-board wage increase, rejecting President Aquino’s Labor Day package of non-wage benefits as merely “band-aid solutions.”

Led by Anakpawis and Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), the groups slammed the President’s offer of increased benefits from Pag-IBIG, PhilHealth, Social Security System (SSS) and Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).

Traffic snarled in key roads in Metro Manila as hundreds of workers marched to Mendiola outside Malacañang to press for wage increases among their other demands.

They also burned an effigy of Aquino and a cardboard replica of a Porsche, saying the purchase of the luxury car was a sign of his insensitivity to the plight of laborers amidst calls for austerity.

KMU spokesman Elmer Labog said the President’s offer of non-wage benefits “will not dissipate but will only ignite the outrage over the extreme exploitation and oppression of Filipino workers.”


Labog stressed the need for a significant wage increase amidst rising prices of basic goods and services, and petroleum products.

“The pressing down of wages, the rolling back of job security, the lack of jobs and livelihood, and attacks on trade union rights have intensified through the years. It is an outrage that seeks immediate and genuine economic relief in the coming days, weeks and months,” Labog said.

The militant group went as far as warning of a “possible ouster movement” should the Aquino administration fail to act on labor sector concerns.

CBCP also thumbs down non-wage benefit

An official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) criticized the Aquino government for choosing to offer non-wage benefits to ordinary workers instead of granting them a salary hike.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, chairman of the CBCP’s National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace, said the government’s announcement of non-salary compensation would not be enough.

“The problem is that the prices of everything increase, so there should also be an increase in workers’ salaries because most of these non-wage benefits do not help the workers, particularly the non-regular workers,” Pabillo told reporters at the sidelines of the World Youth Day Fun Run in Pasay City.

He said Aquino’s refusal to heed the workers’ call only proves that he is protecting the capitalists’ interest over those of the workers.

Protest caravan

In Zamboanga City, militant group Akbayan celebrated Labor Day with a protest caravan.

[PHOTO COURTESY OF ZAMBOANGA JOURNAL released to the Mindanao Examiner by the pro-labor group called Bagong Alyansang Makabayan show workers protesting in Davao City in Mindanao on Sunday, May 1, 2011. They demanded for higher wages.]

Akbayan regional chair Edgar Araojo, who led the protest caravan, called on the local and national government to protect the defenseless workers from the “casualization scheme” being implemented by different employers and companies.

The militant group also slammed the exorbitant fuel prices in the city compared to other places in the country.

“We have our priorities wrongly implemented, the stomach of the people can no longer bear with the price increases. Let us feel that the government is on our side and something must be done as we can not longer tolerate the economic dislocation,” Araojo said.

The group likewise criticized the labor department for holding a job fair, saying it is only helping employers “promote casualization.”

But Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) regional director Ponciano Ligutom said the job fair aims to fill in at least 20,000 job vacancies in the region, with18,000 for overseas job employment and 2,000 for local hiring.

The labor official assured workers that they are also looking at complaints of alleged unfair compensation by some local employers.

Ligutom said the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board is expected to meet and discuss data that would support the possible increase of wages, depending on supervening conditions.

Improved quality of life for workers

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. (photo) said concern for workers should not be focused on wage increases but “much deeper measures to address concerns that relate to an improved quality of life.”

Belmonte said the 15th Congress should try to improve the quality of life of workers and the people in general by addressing the “more fundamental issues” like socialized health care, retirement benefits, housing and transport, and other concerns “that all contribute to a proper working environment.”

He pointed out that as economic and political crises abroad prompt many Filipino workers to return home, resulting in less foreign exchange remittances, the government should “look for new models to address our economic development.”

“Let us make this day a time to recognize and pay tribute to our workers who serve as the backbone of our nation. A lot is still left to be done to uplift their status and condition in our society, and that is what we want to do in this 15th Congress,” he said.

“Today we salute the Filipino workers both here and abroad for their valuable contribution towards building our nation,” he added.

Belmonte noted that Labor Day is officially celebrated in over 80 countries and unofficially in many more, and that the Philippines started celebrating it in 1903.

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, meanwhile, sought the amendment of the “antiquated” Labor Code to define the work rules of tens of thousands of workers in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector and various fields of information technology.

“Our Labor Code does not cover the ICT sector, which is right now the prime generator of jobs and the prime driver of economic innovation. This alone is a reason for an urgent congressional effort to tailor the code to the needs of the times,” he said.

The global and forever shifting nature of employment requires an adequate response from Congress through a modern labor law, Evardone said.

He called for a bicameral, multi-party initiative to update the Labor Code. – With Helen Flores, Roel Pareño, Jess Diaz

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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