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ANGELES CITY, Pampanga - President Arroyo yesterday signed the order granting a 10 percent salary increase for government employees starting July 1.

"Yes, I already signed it, in time for Labor Day," Arroyo said in an interview at the Villanueva, De Leon, Hipolito, Cusi, Tuazon Law offices here, where the meeting of the regional tripartite wage and productivity board (RTWPB) for Central Luzon was held.

The President, accompanied by Labor Secretary Marianito Roque, conducted an unscheduled visit at the meetings of the regional wage boards for Central Luzon and the National Capital Region (NCR).

Arroyo said the visits were meant "not to exert undue pressure but just to see for myself how things are doing."

Arroyo earlier ordered regional wage boards to work overtime to come up with possible wage increases to help cushion the impact of the rising prices of oil and rice.

Overtime

"Instead of having the usual Labor Day ceremony, upon my request, the wage boards are doing overtime work today Labor Day. It is a no-work holiday for all, May 1, except for them," she said.

Labor groups in Central Luzon and Metro Manila are seeking an across-the-board wage increase of P60 and P80, respectively. The minimum wage in Central Luzon is P201 to P287 following a P9 increase that took effect Sept. 27, 2007. The minimum wage in the NCR ranges from P325 to P362 following a P12 increase effective Aug. 28, 2007.

Records of the two RTWPBs showed that there is 86.6 percent compliance with the wage increase in the NCR and 97.5 percent compliance in Central Luzon.

Aida Andres, NCR wage board secretary, said an increase in minimum wage in Metro Manila would benefit about 1.3 million to 1.8 million workers.

Of the number, 90 percent work for mostly micro, small and medium-scale enterprises.

She said that based on their assessment, a P60 to P125 across-the-board increase at this time may result in an increase in unemployment or displacement of workers of up to 914,000.

Roque said no new announcements were to be made in time for the Labor Day celebration except to reiterate and ensure the provision of additional non-wage benefits like the condonation of loan penalties for Government Service Insurance System, Social Security System and the Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-Ibig) and the putting up of daycare centers in the work place, among other programs.

Schedule

He, however, said they expect the deliberations to be finished within the month and eventually "issue wage orders this month of May."

Roque assured workers of the commitment of the government to continue working until the wage orders are approved and implemented.

He also committed to hasten the drafting of the implementing rules and regulations (IRRs) to pave the way for the implementation of Republic Act (RA) 9481 or the "Act Strengthening the Workers Constitutional Right to Self Organization," which took effect in May last year.(Sunnex)



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