Mainstream labor unions expressed their thanks to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for the package of non-wage benefits that she announced during the Labor Day celebration at the Folk Arts Theatre in Pasay City, the Department of Labor and Employment said.
They "debunked reports that 'Labor Rejects GMA's Gift,'" DOLE added.
The Federation of Free Workers, the Philippine Transport General Workers Organization, and the Trade Unions of the Philippines and Allied Services echoed the earlier pronouncement made by the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines that the package of non-wage benefits such as the exemption of minimum wage earners from withholding tax deductions and the proposed exemption from income tax would essentially be a big help for workers.
Vic Balais, PTGWO President, was quoted as saying by DOLE that an exemption from income tax is "a direct financial benefit no different from a minimum wage grant because the income tax is an amount that would otherwise be lost to the minimum wage earner who is richer to the extent that no payment has to be made." According to DOLE, he said "this is like a yearly grant because the payment of income tax comes yearly."
Lawyer Allan Montano, for his part, clarified that his union did not attend the Folk Arts Theatre ceremony on May 1 to wait for benefits from government. "I clearly clarified in my message at the program that we are not here to wait for benefits. We attended because this is the day to commemorate labor and our continuing worth in our society; we demean the value of labor if we equate ourselves to gifts and benefits."
DOLE said he added that he and his group are "very thankful for the President's grants as they are decidedly for the benefit of the workingman. It is the gesture on the part of the President of thinking of labor that we are thankful for, more than the kind or extent of the benefits she extended."
Vladimir Tupas, who read Labor's Manifesto during the ceremonies, "is happy that the President responded to most if not all of what they communicated to the President."
Many of the responses are direct while the others are matters that the government still have a chance to act upon in the future, he added. "Representation or at least being heard in the trade negotiations involving the country is a distinct possibility in the future now that the government has become inclusive in its approaches". Tupas was apparently referring to the 3+ policy being implemented by the DOLE that reaches out to all stakeholders, not only to the traditional government-employer-worker triumvirate. All three added that while they reflected a wage increase in their Manifesto, theirs was a more of a statement of concern about wages rather than for a request for a direct grant of wage increase on May 1.
"We are active participants in the Regional Wage Board consultations and we know that a minimum wage increase cannot occur until after the one-year prohibition period. We are simply giving notice that wage is a matter very close to the heart of every workingman."
Balais said what they intend to do now is to monitor the actual implementation of what Mrs. Arroyo announced during the Labor Day.
"We see the package of benefits to be practical and realistic. There was something for every sector of labor," he said.
FFW President Allan Montano echoed Balais' sentiments by expressing concern about actual implementation.
"We will be monitoring the implementation of the announced benefits. This is where government sincerity will really be evident," he said.
The DOLE, as the labor relations agency of government, is expected to implement the announced benefits or at least monitor the implementation of these announced grants by the concerned agencies.