Why do workers push for P750 national minimum wage?

Apr. 30, 2019

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Workers have expressed eagerness to push for the legislation of national minimum wage in time with the celebration of Labor Day on May 1. Amid the rising prices of basic commodities and services, how significant is it for the workers to gain a significant wage hike?

Still pending in Congress is the House Bill (HB) No. 7787 known as the National Minimum Wage Bill filed on May last year by progressive lawmakers under the Makabayan Bloc in the House of Representatives, to include Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao, Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate, Gabriela Women’s Party Representatives Emmi de Jesus and Arlene Brosas, ACT Teachers Representatives Antonio Tinio and France Castro, and Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago.

The HB 7787 aims to abolish the regionalized minimum wages being implemented, and set the bar for the minimum wage across the country to PHP750.

In 1989, the late President Corazon Aquino signed into law the Republic Act 6727 that mandates the regional minimum wages set by the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards (RTWPB).

As stated in RA 6727, the following factors are the main considerations for the RTWPB in setting the wage increases in their respective regions:

(a) The demand for living wages; (b) Wage adjustment vis-a-vis the consumer price index; (c) The cost of living and changes or increases therein; (d) The needs of workers and their families; (e) The need to induce industries to invest in the countryside; (f) Improvements in standards of living; (g) The prevailing wage levels; (h) Fair return of the capital invested and capacity to pay of employers; (i) Effects on employment generation and family income; and (j) The equitable distribution of income and wealth along with the imperatives of economic and social development.

For the Makabayan Bloc in the House, the RTWPB’s wage orders “lack transparency as to how the boards balanced or interplay the factors in setting their wage increases.”

“Our workers have weighed the regionalized minimum wage in regions through twenty-eight years and found it a big failing. So, they are now demanding that it be scrapped and for this country to return to the regime of a legislated national minimum wage that is based on the family living wage,” the Makabayan Bloc emphasized.

Representative Casilao, revealed that after the measure was filed, it was only endorsed to the Committee on Labor and Employment on August last year.

“Until now, the bill was not even discussed by the committee on labor,” Casilao said.

Living wage

At present, different minimum wages in 17 regions ranges from as high as PhP500 to PhP537 in the National Capital Region (NCR) to as low as PhP270 to PhP280 in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) data in April shows that a family of five needs no less than PhP10,481.00 to meet both their basic food and non-food needs in a month, or a budget of PhP349.37 or PhP69.87 for each family member in a day.

On the contrary, the research group IBON Foundation criticized PSA’s data calling out the government’s setting of “low standard” in having targets for dealing with the country’s poverty situation.

Based on IBON’s computation, a family living wage should be at PhP1,004 per day. In a month, IBON emphasized that a family of five needs around PhP11, 262 to meet their basic food needs.

According to IBON executive director Sonny Africa, the implementation of the PhP750 national minimum wage is much “doable”, noting that it is only 21.4 percent deduction to the profit of the businesses.

He explained that it is much easier for big corporations with huge profit but the government could also help small businessmen provide the PhP750 minimum wage by “giving cheap credit, tax breaks, marketing and technology assistance, and other support to ensure the progress of their business.”

Region 11

Workers in Davao Region recently received two tranches of wage hikes amounting to a total increase of PhP56.00.

The workers in the region received the PhP30.00 first tranche last August 16, 2018 while the PhP26 second tranche became effective on February 16 this year.

From the previous PhP340.00, the national minimum wage for Non-Agriculture/Industrial/Commercial and Retail/Service employing more than 10 Workers is now at PhP396.00; for Agriculture, PhP391.00; and for Retail/Service employing not more than 10 workers, PhP381.00.

Labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) in Southern Mindanao Region said that the current income of Filipinos continues to go further away from the real and factual family living wage due to the surge in the prices of basic commodities and services caused by TRAIN Law.

KMU secretary-general Carlo Olalo said the group supports the call of bringing back the national minimum wage. He said that the PhP750.00 would only serve as “immediate relief” for the workers.

“Our call to the government is legitimate, for we see that it is what the workers need right now. The family of a worker won’t survive if his/her wage remains to be this low,” Olalo said.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, in a recent Bombo Radyo report, quickly dismissed the renewed call on President Rodrigo Duterte to grant wage hike.

“We want to remind them [government] to favor the workers’ interests instead of being in defense to the capitalists, telling us that businesses would go bankrupt,” Olalo said.

This year, the group is expecting to mobilize around 1,500 workers in the region for the Labor Day protest in Davao City. (davaotoday.com)

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