The Department of Labor and Employment yesterday stood pat on its position that the proposed P125 across-the-board daily wage increase is not feasible at this time, but stressed that steps are being undertaken to mitigate the plight of the workers.
Among these are measures to improve the distribution and effectiveness of the social amelioration fund for sugar workers, which will ensure the inclusion of seasonal farm workers known as sacadas, Labor Undersecretary Lourdes Trasmonte, who was in Bacolod City yesterday, said.
She said measures are also being undertaken to eliminate child labor, especially in the sugar, pyrotechnics, fishing and mining industries.
DOLE is now focusing on the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children to help them transform barangays with high incidence of child labor into child-labor free barangays, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz has said.
Baldoz, whose afternoon flight was delayed, arrived in Bacolod last night for the inauguration of P8-million Sugar Workers Development Center at Cottage Road in Bacolod City this morning.
She is also scheduled to give 100 educational kits to elementary and high schools students working in sugar plantations in Brgy. Antipolo, Pontevedra town, today as part of the campaign against child labor.
Trasmonte stressed that parents who allow their children to engage in child labor and do not ensure that they go to school under the law will be penalized.
The DOLE will be working closely with local government units in the campaign to eliminate child labor, she added.
The DOLE is also adopting measures to improve the distribution of the Social Amelioration Fund of workers, she said.
Zoilo de la Cruz, president of the National Congress of Unions in the Sugar Industry of the Philippines and treasurer of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, said P10 is deducted per picul of sugar for the fund but amendments are needed to make it more responsive.
The coverage of agrarian reform beneficiaries should also be ensured, he said.
Of the fund, 80 percent is given as actual cash bonuses to sugar and mill workers and 20 percent is used for social projects for workers in the industry, he said.
DOLE figures show that P126.1 million was collected for the social amelioration fund for crop year 2010-2011 of which 52 percent has already be released to mill and farm workers, Trasmonte said.
She said the two-day summit is set to come up with further improvements to the utilization of the fund.
On calls for the abolition of Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards and for wages to instead be legislated, Trasmonte said RTWPBs are more effective because they are able to determine what are viable wage increases for an area that at the same time will ensure that businesses do not shutdown.
Echoing the position of Baldoz, Trasmonte said the proposed P125 across-the-board daily wage increase now with out corresponding productivity would be inflationary and further erode workers' incomes.
This will drive out investors and much needed jobs, she said, pointing out that part of the mandate of the DOLE is to ensure the preservation of jobs.
It will weigh down heavily on the economy through higher prices, loss of jobs, and slower overall economic growth, Baldoz has said.*CPG