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Labor groups urge gov’t protections from lay-offs, bankruptcies

BY CHRYSEE G. SAMILLANO

Labor groups like GAWA are urging the government to adopt measures to prevent mass lay-offs and preserve business enterprises from bankruptcy.

Like a raging tempest, COVID-19 has ruined and devastated the economic plight of the workers, particularly on their wage and employment, GAWA secretary general Wennie Sancho said yesterday.

Like the aftershocks of an earthquake, the effects were reduction of working hours, curtailed overtime for workers and cancellation of their fringe benefits, he said after attending the face-to-face regular meeting of the Regional Wage Board in Iloilo Monday.

The members of the RTWBP 6 discussed the 2020-21 Global Wage Report of the International Labor Organization (ILO) which shows that the pandemic crisis had disproportionately affected the minimum wage earners who are located in the lower end of the income distribution, Sancho said.

The closures of non-essential activities on most business establishments resulted to massive lay-offs, a slump in production, and fall in wages and incomes of the workers, he said.

Sancho said there was a downward pressure on wages. The ascending trend in wages and gross incomes in 2020 were drastically interrupted. The report also shows that the pandemic crisis also increased wage inequality.

Globally, according to ILO, an estimated 327 million wage earners are paid below the applicable hourly minimum wage. The median value of gross minimum wage for is equal to $486 per month or about P24,300 which would amount to a daily wage of P810 per day. This is the equivalent of a “living wage” as defined in the Labor Protection Clause of the 1987 Philippine Constitution. This is the “dream salary” aspired for by all Filipino minimum wage earners, he said.

Sancho said the labor sector, particularly GAWA, is urging the government to follow the practices in Europe where wage subsidies have been widely used to prevent mass lay-offs and to compensate around half of the wage bill lost, it allows business enterprises, especially SMEs to face the payments of wages and preserve business enterprises from bankruptcy.

Wage subsidies which have played a large role in mitigating the impact of the crisis by protecting workers’ jobs and incomes need to be prolonged to support the recovery of the economy. Adequate minimum wage can contribute more to social justice and less inequality, he said.

Meanwhile, workers have to brace themselves for another storm in the offing called Omicron which could be worse than Covid, Sancho added.*

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