Cebu News

Groups call on Congress to pass P150 wage hike

Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines — Labor group Nagkaisa and the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) have called on the House of Representatives to immediately pass the Wage Recovery Act of 2023 that aims to address the decline in the real value of workers' wages caused by surging inflation.

TUCP President and House Deputy Speaker Raymond Democrito Mendoza said there is a need for the passage of Wage Recovery Act of 2023 or House Bill No. 7871 amidst continuous rise of the cost of living.

The measure seeks to legislate across-the-board wage increases of ?150 in the daily wages of private sector workers nationwide.

“We laud the marching orders of Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez for the House Committee on Labor and Employment to urgently and vigorously conduct public hearings as soon as possible to hear all sectors and deliberate on the much-needed increase in the take-home pay of our workers,” Mendoza said in a statement.

Nagkaisa spokesperson Dennis Derige during The Freeman’s Hot Seat exclusive interview also said that their group is also calling the legislators in Cebu to support the measure.

“We ask our Cebu legislators to support and this and we will also ask them to have a meeting with us on the said issue,” said Derige, who is also the spokesperson of Partido Mangagawa-Cebu.

He said that this coming February 28, 2024, the House of Representatives will deliberate the said measure at the committee level.

The TUCP stressed that since 1989, “the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards (RTWPBs) have failed to keep up with the pace with significant changes in the cost of living due to an unsaid, unspoken de facto implicit policy of dampening legitimate wage demands by setting too late, too little, and highly unjust wages.”

According to TUCP, the last legislated wage hike through Republic Act No. 6727 or the Wage Rationalization Act, which established the regional wage boards, was ?25 on top of the then ?64 minimum wage whereas the highest latest minimum wage hike given by the regional wage boards as of 2024 was only ?50.

The TUCP stressed that after nearly 35 years without a legislated wage hike, the Congress should act now to address worker survival needs to reverse this ‘cheap labor’ policy.

“As Filipino workers struggle with already-low wages eroded by inflation and various headwinds, the legislated wage hike is no longer a social or economic imperative but a moral and existential imperative, especially for our millions of mostly poor wage earners. Their honest hard work receives only poverty wages that cannot even sustain the health, productivity, and need for a decent life of their families,” said Mendoza.

TUCP added that even with the latest wage hikes, all regional minimum wages are below the government-set poverty threshold by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) and no way near the family living wage estimated by the think tank IBON Foundation.

“All regional minimum wages today fall far short of bringing nutritious food to their family’s table. Without badly needed living wages as enshrined in the Constitution, malnutrition and growth stunting will further escalate, leading to sick workers and labor productivity dropping like a rock, while our children’s mental and physical growth continue to be stunted. This will virtually erase our oft-touted demographic dividend,” said TUCP vice president Luis Corral.

Corral said that it's no wonder Filipino learners are failing in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings and no wonder one in every three of our children below five years old are stunted.

“We are raising a next generation of ENDO workers who will never be competitive globally or even in ASEAN. Our workforce and economy will remain ‘gatherers of woods’ and ‘carriers of water’, forever assembling goods but never manufacturing, and doomed to be an economy of low-end gig and temporary work,” Corral added.

Addressing the concerns of businesses, H.B. 7871 provides for wage subsidies to micro and small enterprises, ensuring their viability and full compliance with this wage legislation.

“The swift opposition from employers to the still-pending proposed legislated wage increase does not shock us anymore. They are expert scare-mongers misleading the people with their myths and fallacies against any wage increase. They perennially demonize any and all legitimate wage demands of Filipino workers and their families who just want simple fairness as they struggle to make ends meet,”  Corral said.

“Let’s end the spurious chatter that wage hikes lead to business closures and job losses because higher wages even benefit businesses through higher productivity with less turnover of workers. This results in cost savings for employers. Let’s end the guilt trip thrown to labor for demanding a wage raise that supposedly benefits only formal workers and not the larger informal economy,” added Corral.

Corral explained that an increase in formal workers’ wages translate into increased consumer demand for goods and services produced by the informal economy and MSMEs, hence raising the income of informal workers.

“Let’s put an end to employer ‘overkill’ on a fair wage because a wage increase actually lifts all boats,” said Corral. (CEBU NEWS)

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