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'Out of touch': Labor group hits 'obsolete' wage board after meager increases

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'Out of touch': Labor group hits 'obsolete' wage board after meager increases
Passengers present their vaccination cards to personnel upon entry at the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX) in Tambo, Parañaque City on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines hit the current wage board in the country in the wake of the recent minimum wage increase, calling it “out of touch, irrelevant, and obsolete” as it can no longer perform its mandate to provide “living wage” to workers. 

In an interview aired over ABS-CBN News Channel on Monday morning, TUCP spokesperson Alan Tanjusay said that the inevitable increase in prices of basic commodities and services will eventually offset the wage increase anyway.

"The wage increases given today are a short-lived victory of some sort," he said in mixed Filipino and English. "These wage increases that they gave will dissipate tomorrow, and their value will be gone tomorrow because there's another round of increases."

"So the wage increases a few days ago are for nothing," he added in Filipino. "Our focus right now is to amend the law and change the system of setting the minimum wage here in the country." 

To recall, the Department of Labor and Employment confirmed earlier this week that Metro Manila's wage board granted a P33 increase for minimum-wage earners. This brings up the minimum wage rate to P570 and P533 for workers in the non-agriculture and agriculture sectors, respectively. 

It's also worth noting that the TUCP backed the electoral campaign of now-presumptive president Ferdinand Marcos Jr., whose plans included setting the price of rice to just P20 per kilo. With such a price cap enforced by the national government, both traders and farmers are at a loss because the latter would not be able to sell them beyond P20.

Marcos has said that his incoming administration would streamline government agencies dealing with the labor sector and push for a review of the proposed measure to end contractual work in the country — the same promise that President Rodrigo Duterte made and eventually abandoned. The son of the late ousted dictator has not said much about his labor agenda beyond this. 

Asked for his assessment of the performance so far of the DOLE's Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards, Tanjusay called them "sluggish, bureaucratic, out of touch, irrelevant, [and] obsolete."  

"What we want to happen is that wage increases should be based on data, on empirical evidence, on economic realities that we're facing today," Tanjusay said Monday. "At present, the formula the wage board uses is whoever has the loudest voice... which is very unfair for the workers."

Tanjusay said that as it stands, having 17 different wage boards became "obsolete" because they have not fulfilled their mandate of giving workers a living wage. "Now they are pushing for cheap labor," he said. 

But if wage boards don't work, what does the labor group propose? "We are proposing a singular national wage board which will mandate a wage increase across the board nationwide," Tanjusay said. 

— Franco Luna with a report from Angelica Y. Yang 

DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT

DOLE

LABOR

MINIMUM WAGE

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