Baguio City – As a legal requirement for increasing wages of workers in the private sector, public consultations have to be done in order to determine the position of the people especially those who are directly affected like the workers and employers.

This was the reason why the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board, the government agency which is mandated to adjust wages of workers in the private sector, embarked on a series of consultations across the region on Sept. 6, in Abra, Sept. 11 in Tabuk City for the provinces of Kalinga and Apayao, Sept. 12 in Lagawe for the provinces of Ifugao and Mountain Province and finally on Sept. 17 at the Orchard Hotel, Legarda Road for Baguio City and Benguet.

During these consultations, pertinent socio-economic indicators which may have effects on the lives of workers and on the operation of businesses were discussed and explained by resource persons from the Philippine Statistics Authority and the Department of Trade and Industry on the movement of prices of prime goods and services. This was followed by an open forum.

Finally, and perhaps the most impactful part of all the consultations was the request for all participants to individually answer in writing the questionnaire distributed to them. It is a direct question based on what they have learned from the discussions on the socio-economic indicators presented and discussed and based on their own economic life experiences. The question runs this way: Is it necessary to adjust/increase the salary rates in the region? If the answer is yes, how much is the proposed increase and state the reasons for such proposal. If the answer is no, what are also the reasons or justifications for it.

The participants were requested to indicate if they are either owners of business, managerial employees representing owners or pure workers. The collated results reveal the following information:

For Abra – All owner-participants say no to wage increase. Sixty-eight percent of management representatives favors an increase and 32 percent of them says no increase. For the workers, all of them favor an increase. For those in favor, the amount sought by them ranges from P10 to 500 with majority seeking for P50 increase daily.

For Kalinga and Apayao – It is very similar with Abra. All the business owner-participants say no to wage increase. Forty-five percent of management representatives favors an increase with 55 percent against. For those in favor, the amount sought by them ranges from P10 to 100 daily with majority seeking a P50 daily increase.

For Ifugao and Mountain Province – It is surprisingly different, 20 percent of business owners favors an increase but an amount affordable to them with 80 percent of them against an increase. Sixty percent of management representatives favors an increase while 40 percent not in favor. Intriguing too is the fact that 38 percent of worker-participants are not in favor of any wage increase with the remaining 62 percent saying there should be an increase.

For Baguio City and Benguet – Result of collated opinions of participants is quite interesting too. Forty-three percent of business owner-participants are amenable to a wage increase with 57 percent saying no to an increase. Sixty-three percent of management representatives say yes to an increase with 37 percent saying no. As to the employees, 89 percent favor a wage increase with 19 percent saying no. Those who were in favor of an increase were seeking an amount ranging from P10 to100 daily increase.

Normally the issue on wage increase gives rise to contrasting opinions with the owners saying no to it and their workers interested in an increase. But this year’s public consultations revealed that some employers are amenable to a wage increase provided that this is within their capacity to pay.

The sharing of an executive official of one of the local publishing companies based in Baguio says it all. The official recognizes the importance of workers in any company. For without them, how can a company operate? So, if a company is doing well and can afford to give increases, it should even be without waiting for a wage order to be issued. Indeed, a commendable lesson from an employer.

For those participants who favor a wage increase, their common reason is to counter the rising cost of practically all goods and services so that workers can still maintain a decent life. And for those who are against it, they say that movement of prices of goods and services is still normal. To have a wage increase might instead trigger a fast and high movement leading to an abnormal inflation rate. If this happens, the supposed benefit derived from a wage increase might be totally wiped out.

Just the same the output from this series of public consultations shall be carefully considered and together with other data to be studied as required by the law on wage fixing, the RTWPB may come up with a decision on whether to adjust the wages or not.

If wage increases will push through, the RTWPB is informing the public in advance that the same shall be for the minimum wage earners only. It shall not be an across-the-board increase, which mean it will cover all workers regardless of their wage rates.

According to RTWPB Chairperson Exequiel Guzman, the authority of RTWPB to adjust wages is limited to minimum wage fixing only as mandated by Republic Act 6727, otherwise known as the Wage Rationalization Act of 1989.

END/with reports from Ogie Aquillo, RTWPB-CAR