DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives filed on Monday House Bill No. 7787 entitled “An Act Establishing a National Minimum Wage for Private Sector Workers and Imposing Stiffer Penalties for Violations Thereof, Amending for this purpose the Labor Code of the Philippines.”
House Bill No. 7787 was introduced by Anakpawis Rep. Ariel B. Casilao together with Gabriela Reps. Emmi A. De Jesus and Arlene D. Brosas; Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani T. Zarate; ACT Teachers Reps. Antonio L. Tinio and France L. Castro; and Kabataan Rep. Sarah Jane I. Elago.
The proposed law will set a national daily minimum wage of P750 and will be adjusted by Congress every year.
The measure also proposes for the abolition of the existing regional wage boards.
“When Pres. Cory Aquino signed into law Republic Act 6727 in 1989, the country abandoned the old practice of legislating national minimum wage and entered into the regime of so many regional wage boards setting the wage increases for workers in each region. The Aquino administration justified this set up as ‘wage rationalization’,” the Makabayan bloc said in its explanatory note.
RA 6727 ‘rationalized’ the wage determination in the country by establishing mechanisms and proper standards, but for the Makabayan solons, the results of the law landed contrary to its purpose as it created a wage system they described as irrational, anti-worker, unjust and detached from the existing economic realities.
The solons added that the wage boards that were established courtesy of RA 6727 were not intended to rationalize wages but were weaponized to maintain the wages of workers low.
The system, they added, was part of a program package of the then Aquino government to attract investors to its foreign investment-led economic agenda.
Such an economic agenda, they added, has led to the establishment of industries in various regions in the country that was later turned into “regional industrial centers”, “agriculture and fisheries development zones” and “growth areas”.
These growth areas eventually dissolved significant differences in the price formation of goods and services among localities, regions and Metro Manila, the group pointed out.
“In one important sense, the investment zoning of regions became the vehicle for monopolies and cartel-type commercial operations to penetrate the regions which enabled them to fix prices that affect not just a locality but all corners of the country,” the solons asserted.
In their proposal to abolish the regional wage boards, the Makabayan solons said the wage boards had issued a total of 367 wage orders since their creation 28 years ago.
The total issuances increased the wages of workers from the minimum of P89.00 per day to 17 different regional minimum wage scales today that range from P512 per day in the National Capital Region to as low as P265 per day in other regions, particularly in Region V (Bicol Region) and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
“If these 17 regional minimum wage scales are totaled and translated into a median, the increases accruing in those twenty-eight years amounted only to an average of P316.43,” the group explained.
Prices of basic goods and commodities also increased severely amidst the minimal increases of wages of workers, the solons added.
The exploding impacts of price increases of goods and commodities are brought about by the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law or TRAIN Law.
The solons noted that in the last five months, taxes due to TRAIN Law has “devoured, according to some estimates, the wages of our workers by 25-30%.”
With the proposed measure, the Makabayan bloc said rights of workers to a living wage and to humane conditions of work are assured, by adopting and institutionalization of a legislation of a national minimum wage as the primary mode of setting wages for private sector workers in the country.
HB 7787 will also address the disparities of regional wage and harmonize wage levels across all regions with the national economic and social development plans.
KMU lauds increase measure
The labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) on Monday lauded the filing of HB 7787, saying the measure will bring back the nationalized setting of the minimum wage as opposed to the current regionalized wage setting.
“The pressing down of wages through the regional boards must stop! The government should bring back the national minimum wage and ensure workers’ right to a living wage and to humane conditions of work,” said Elmer Labog, KMU chairperson in a statement the group issued on Monday.
The bill, if approved, will also serve as an immediate relief to workers and their families amidst the unabated price increases of goods and services due to TRAIN law, Labog added.
“The TRAIN law has been a heavy and unfair burden on Filipino workers. It is robbing us of our meager wages and resulted in an even wider gap between existing wage levels and the living wage,” he said.
KMU also welcomed the support expressed by other labor groups to HB 7787, saying that such move will further strengthen the unity of the labor sector in advancing workers’ rights to living wages and decent jobs.
“We call on all Filipino workers to unite and fight for a national minimum wage. We must hold the Duterte administration accountable for failing to deliver his promise of doing away with the regionalized wage setting and for pursuing the previous administrations’ cheap labor policies. The NMW bill would give the labor sector another reason to fortify our class unity in advancing workers’ rights to living wages and decent, regular jobs,” Labog said. (davaotoday.com)