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‘Moderate the greed,’ Zubiri tells big firms opposing wage hike

By: Jerome Aning, Marlon Ramos - | February 17,2024 - 09:45 AM

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri

Juan Miguel Zubiri (File photo from the Senate Public Relations and Information Bureau)

Addressing concerns raised by a business group regarding the P100 legislated wage hike, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri emphasized the need to “moderate the greed” among large corporations.

The Senate already passed the wage hike bill on second reading on Wednesday.

“It’s not a question if they would still make money, but it’s how much money they will make. So we also have to ‘moderate the greed’ when it comes to large corporations,” Zubiri said in a television interview on ANC on Thursday.

Zubiri said businesses with 1,000 workers would only incur about P24 million annually in additional operation costs to implement the wage hike.

The amount, he noted, was just equivalent to the price of an expensive vehicle.
“Maybe the company owners should not buy a very expensive car for that year and just share [the money] with their employees,” the Senate leader said.Zubiri is the principal author of Senate Bill No. 2534, which proposed an across-the-board increase of P100 in the daily basic pay of agricultural and nonagricultural workers.

If passed into law, this would be the first time since 1989 that the country would have a legislated wage increase. But economists in the House of Representatives also expressed reservations about a legislated wage increase.

Zubiri said Congress had already passed laws to help businesses provide better benefits to their employees, such as Republic Act No. 11534, or the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (Create), enacted in 2021.

‘Shrill warnings’

He said the law provides significant tax cuts to companies, including micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs)—whom business leaders say will be greatly affected by any legislated wage increase.

According to Zubiri, taxes of MSMEs were brought down from 33 percent to 20 percent after the enactment of Create, while the corporate income tax of big companies was slashed to 25 percent from the previous rate of 33 percent.“Clearly, the business sector has enough buffer to absorb the cost of the wage hike,” Zubiri said.

The Employers Confederation of the Philippines (Ecop) on Thursday had warned that the proposed P100 increase would only worsen the country’s inflation.“Companies will pass on the cost of the wage increase on their products, so prices of goods will go up,” Ecop president Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. said in a government-televised program.

“Inflation is now going down, slowly but surely, and we are also increasing our employment rate. We should not introduce a problem that is not needed just to address a minority of our workers,” Ortiz-Luis argued.

Sen. Francis Escudero pointed out that business groups and economists had consistently painted a grim scenario whenever a salary adjustment was proposed.

He said the efforts to better the lot of employees were “always met with the shrill warnings of these individuals that the economy will go bust if we give workers their due.”

“Whenever we discuss wage increase, they would bring out their crystal ball and scare us that the economy would collapse,” Escudero said.

‘Old tune’

“But after the round of wage hikes have been implemented, the ground did not collapse and the sky is still up there and has not fallen,” he said.

Escudero said the tax breaks “lavishly given to the moneyed class” cost the government nearly P139 billion in foregone revenues.Partido Manggagawa (PM) chair and Marikina City Councilor Rene Magtubo also criticized the “doomsday scenarios” of employers.“A P100 wage hike will be a blessing not a catastrophe for the economy. For the past two years, minimum wages were raised in all regions, except the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao for this round, and yet inflation and unemployment went on a decline. The economy benefited and did not suffer from salary increases,” Magtubo said in a statement.The Nagkaisa labor coalition said claims about a looming catastrophe were “unfounded and purely speculative,” as well as an “exaggeration.”

In government-televised program on Thursday, Ortiz-Luis warned that the Senate bill providing for P100 increase in the daily minimum pay of private sector employees would be a catastrophe to companies.

Magtubo said Ortiz-Luis was “singing an old tune.”

“They cried the same dire predictions in 2022 and again in 2023 when organized labor demanded wage hikes. Inflation in 2022 was 5.8 percent but now it is down to 2.8 percent. Similarly, unemployment has decreased from 5.4 percent in 2022 to 3.1 percent as of December last year,” the labor leader said.He also called on the House labor committee to deliberate on the pending wage bills.

“As surveys have repeatedly shown, Filipinos want solutions to high prices and low wages, not amendments to the Constitution. Let’s get to work,” Magtubo said.

READ MORE: P100 wage hike bill gets past Senate 2nd reading

Senate approves P100 wage hike for private workers on 2nd reading


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TAGS: minimum wage, senate, wage hike, Zubiri

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