Marcos orders review of minimum wage rates

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Marcos orders review of minimum wage rates
Protesting workers march toward Mendiola, Manila yes- terday to mark Labor Day and demand a wage increase amid rising food and oil prices.
Ryan Baldemor

MANILA, Philippines — There was no order for a wage increase, but President Marcos yesterday directed regional wage boards to review the pay rates in their respective areas and urged Congress to pass a number of measures, which did not include wage hike bills.

“I call on the National Wages and Productivity Commission to review its rules to ensure that the boards are able to maintain a regular and predictable schedule of wage review, issuance and effectivity to reduce uncertainty and enhance fairness for all stakeholders,” Marcos said during the celebration of the 122nd Labor Day at Malacañang.

“As President, I call on the Regional Tripartite Wage and Productivity Boards to initiate a timely review of the minimum wage rates in their respective regions, with due consideration to the impact of inflation, among others, within 60 days prior to the anniversary of their latest wage order,” the President added.

Marcos also reaffirmed the government’s commitment to champion the rights of Filipino workers, whom he called “beacons of hope… important pillars of our country’s foundation” and “the face of the new Philippines.”

He went on to enumerate existing efforts to uplift the welfare of workers, including the assistance and livelihood benefits to displaced workers; the Kadiwa centers that buy and sell basic goods at lower prices; affordable housing loan program and the one-year extension of the employment contract of service and job order personnel in government.

Marcos’ Labor Day address was not limited to ongoing initiatives as it also touched on directives and actions seen to benefit workers, including a possible adjustment of minimum wage rates.

Wage boards issue one wage order per year, unless they declare supervening conditions that warrant a review of the pay rates.

The President has called for a review of workers’ pay rates as some lawmakers are pushing for bills increasing the daily minimum wage to mitigate the impact of rising prices of goods and to reduce poverty incidence.

Business groups are opposed to a legislated wage hike, saying it would lead to higher inflation and hurt small businesses.

Last February, the Senate passed on final reading a measure that seeks to increase the daily minimum wage by P100. Marcos did not mention the bill in his speech, although he pushed for the passage of a number of employment-related measures.

The last time the national wage was raised through legislation was in 1989 when the late president Corazon Aquino signed the Wage Rationalization Act, which increased the pay rate from P64 to P89.

For her part, Vice President Sara Duterte on Labor Day paid tribute to Filipino workers, whom she called “true heroes of the modern age.”

“We salute your unmatched hard work and dedication. These serve as our guide to the path of our nation’s development,” Duterte said.

“To every overseas Filipino worker, medical and security frontliner, community workers, teachers and all those working in our public and private sectors of society, we recognize and appreciate your contribution… May we continue to walk towards a prosperous future,” she added.

Job fairs

Despite the scorching heat, thousands of new graduates and other jobseekers yesterday trooped to job fairs mounted in various sites nationwide to commemorate Labor Day.

Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma said the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is looking to surpass the previous 15 percent hired-on-the-spot among those who participated in past Labor Day job fairs.

Laguesma said the DOLE, in coordination with different local government units, has initiated the job fairs to make employment services more accessible to Filipino jobseekers.

“We need to identify the marginalized and depressed areas and bring to them our services,” Laguesma said, adding that President Marcos has issued a directive for concerned government agencies to address underemployment and unemployment.

DOLE-NCR director Sarah Mirasol reported that as of yesterday noon, around 11,000 applicants have registered for the job fairs in Metro Manila alone. The figure excluded walk-ins.

Several local government units in Metro Manila on Wednesday mounted job fairs in observance of Labor Day.

In Pasay City, the local government said over 7,000 job vacancies were offered during the job fair held at the SM Mall of Asia Arena from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., where at least 70 companies participated.

The Taguig City government in partnership with the city’s Public Employment Service Office also launched a mega job fair at the activity center of Vista Mall Taguig from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

In Las Piñas, over 60 local and overseas companies participated in the job fair organized by the city government. The mega job fair was held at SM South Mall and Robinsons Las Piñas from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Labor Day Stamps

The Philippine Postal Corp. (PhlPost) presented to President Marcos the Labor Day 2024 commemorative stamps that featured the 50th Anniversary of the Labor Code of the Philippines.

In a statement, PhlPost said the Labor Day stamps were printed on the occasion of the 122nd Labor Day celebration.

The DOLE, in collaboration with PhlPost, issued the commemorative stamps and official first day cover.

Copies of the two stamp designs would be available and sold to the public at P16 each.

The stamps were designed by Nazer-Ren Aquino of DOLE and Jose Antonio Jayme of PhlPost.

Teachers’ low pay

Meanwhile, teachers’ groups marked Labor Day by mobilizing in the streets to highlight their dire economic conditions due to low salaries, as they renewed their calls for a wage hike.

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) decried continued government inaction on their pleas for wages that could provide a comfortable living, especially to teachers and school employees with families.

“Nine out of 10 teachers struggle to make ends meet on a salary that does not support their families. Other professionals such as soldiers/policemen and nurses have left them behind as educators under Teacher I rank still have P27,000 monthly salary. This is far from the government’s estimate of P42,000 per month needed for a family to live decently,” ACT chairman Vladimer Quetua said.

“The petsa de peligro for teachers and staff is not just every time the end of the year approaches, but every day,” he added.

ACT reiterated its call to upgrade teachers’ basic salaries to P50,000 entry-level pay in both public and private, P33,000 for salary grade 1 employees, SG16 for instructor 1 in state universities and colleges and P33,000 national minimum wage.

Labor group Federation of Free Workers (FFW) for its part expressed disappointment over Marcos’ order for a review of the existing minimum wage and failure to push for a legislated wage increase.

“FFW strongly criticizes the inadequate measures taken by referring the wage issues to the RTWPBs, which failed to resolve the pervasive problem of low wages and discrimination against workers,” the labor group said.

FFW said workers are calling for swift and decisive action through the passage of P150 legislated wage hike.

P100 wage hike pushed

On the celebration of Labor Day yesterday, senators urged their counterparts in the House of Representatives to pass the P100 daily minimum wage increase act as they pressed for more benefits for Filipino workers.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri expressed solidarity with the Filipino workforce, acknowledging their indispensable role in driving the nation’s economy. He emphasized the need to recognize and address the undervaluation of workers’ contributions.

Sen. Grace Poe called on capable employers to provide additional assistance to their employees. She likewise emphasized the importance of ensuring a safe working environment, especially amid extreme weather conditions.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian reiterated his push for the Revised Magna Carta for Public School Teachers, which would enhance teachers’ welfare and provide crucial benefits.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros emphasized the need to expand labor laws to encompass the diverse realities of today’s workforce. She also advocated for additional protections and benefits for workers in various sectors.

In Congress, Speaker Martin Romualdez gave assurance that the House of Representatives will continue to push and approve pieces of legislation that will advance the interests of Filipino workers.

In his Labor Day message, the House chief said they are reaffirming their “commitment to the welfare of our workers.”

“The government is steadfast in its resolve to create more job opportunities and to foster an environment where labor rights are protected and economic opportunities flourish,” the Speaker added.

“Our overseas Filipino workers, who brave distance and sacrifice, deserve special recognition for their contributions to both the Philippines and the economies of their host countries,” the House leader said, acknowledging the sacrifices of OFWs. –  Neil Jayson Servallos, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Delon Porcalla, Nillicent Bautista, Mayen Jaymalin, Evelyn Macairan

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