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President meets with workers today

Today, May 1, Labor Day. President Duterte will meet in Davao City with labor delegations which will present petitions and proposals for the nation’s working class. Expectations are high as this is the first Labor Day in the administration of President Duterte, who understands, more than most officials, the situation faced by the nation’s workers today.

Secretary of Labor Silvestre Bello III said the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP), the country’s biggest labor group, has asked for an increase of P157 in the daily pay of minimum wage earners. This has now to be studied to see if the nation’s employers can afford it, he said.

The TUCP also had another proposal for the President – a P500 subsidy for minimum wage earners to help them with their food needs, possibly until the year 2022. This would come from the government – much like the Pantawid monthly assistance given to poor families through the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

The proposed P157 pay increase, which will require the enactment of a law in Congress, has already met some resistance. An official of the Department of Budget and Management (DoLE) said any increase in pay would exacerbate the unemployment problem of the country. The Employers Confederation of the Philippines said it calls for a study of the entire economic environment – the consumer price index, basic commodities, inflation, etc.

There is also the issue of contractualization. The Department of Labor and Employment has already issued a new order replacing the rules on contractual employment, but labor groups, notably the Associated Labor Union (ALU), claim the new policy is worse than the old one.

As part of today’s celebration, the DoLE said it will hold 56 job fairs all over the country offering a total of 201,811 local and overseas jobs. The DoLE acknowledged that there is a substantial problem of job mismatch in the country today, but thousands of the country’s unemployed, whose numbers are about to be boosted by this year’s new graduates, should be able find work in the DoLE job fairs today.

The nation’s labor leaders, however, pin their greatest hopes on President Duterte who will meet them in a Labor Day assembly at the city’s People’s Park today. He has been known to make the most unexpected and surprising announcements on many other issues of national importance. He may have something special for the nation’s workers today.