Aquino rejects labor groups' demands
MANILA, Philippines – They could do more harm than good.
President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday, April 30 gave a thumbs down to labor groups’ demands – among them, certifying the security of tenure bill as urgent and raising tax exemptions – citing their negative effects in the long term.
In his pre-Labor Day speech before labor groups in Malacañang, Aquino said certifying the tenure bill is “against the law” and “runs counter to our agenda to create jobs.”
“I can only immediately certify bills that respond to public calamities or emergencies,” he said.
He added only 1.8 million would benefit, while an estimated 10 million Filipinos could lose their jobs if the bill, in current form, gets approved.
In an interview with reporters, the President explained that portions of the measure must be “tweaked” to attain its intent without affecting job availability. “Companies might hesitate to hire because of certain provisions and therefore, deprive our workers of the opportunity to gain employment.”
Raising the P30,000 ceiling for tax exemptions to P60,000, in the meantime, would reduce tax collections by P2.74 billion – money that could otherwise be spent for classrooms and low-cost houses, he said.
“Would it be just to put the education of our children at risk or deprive our less fortunate countrymen of housing projects? Let us not do that.”
Long-term solutions raised
Aquino instead proposed long-term measures to address workers’ woes.
One thing government could do, he said, is to hire more Labor Law compliance officers who would crack down on what is commonly referred to as “555” or companies’ abusive practice of renewing workers’ contracts every 5 months.
Government could also amend the Social Security System (SSS) pension scheme. This however would require “a little sacrifice.”
“Since 1980, there have been 21 across-the-board pension increases, but how many times has the contribution rate increased? Only twice. This will bankrupt us.”
If the rate is increased to 11% from the current 10.4%, SSS could reduce its unfunded liability by P141 billion, Aquino explained.
Group: We have ‘nothing to hold on to’
Labor group Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) was dismayed by Aquino’s speech.
“We were not able to get a concrete response from the President with regards to issues raised by TUCP and other labor groups about the worsening problems of workers and their families,” said TUCP spokesman Alan Tanjusay.
“We were expecting something to hold on to, something to begin with working on. But there was none. Trade unions and labor groups are at a loss.”
TUCP filed earlier this month a petition for an P85 wage increase for workers in Metro Manila.
Aquino said the wage adjudication boards would decide on wage hike petitions in June. – Rappler.com