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Labor pins hopes on Congress wage measures

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By Chloe Mari A. Hufana

LABOR GROUPS continued to push for a legislated wage hike following an order granting a P35 raise in the National Capital Region (NCR) minimum wage, arguing that a uniform national increase is needed to support workers across the country.

“A legislated wage hike is crucial because it ensures that wage adjustments cover all regions,” Federation of Free Workers President and NAGKAISA Labor Coalition Chairman Jose G. Matula told BusinessWorld via Viber.

“This (wage board) increase is grossly insufficient, amounting to less than one-fourth or 23.3% of the proposed P150 recovery wage, and it is limited solely to Metro Manila. It fails to address the inadequacy of minimum wages in regions outside the NCR, where wages are below the poverty threshold,” he added.

On Monday, the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board-NCR (RTWPB) approved a P35 wage order for workers in the capital region.

This brings non-agricultural workers’ daily minimum wage to P645 from P610. For agriculture and service establishments with 15 workers or less, minimum daily wages will now be at P608 from P573.

Workers in manufacturing establishments regularly employing fewer than 10 will also receive a minimum daily wage of P608.

The wage order will take effect on July 17, a day after the anniversary of the last wage order in the capital.

Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino President Renecio S. Espiritu told BusinessWorld via Messenger chat the wage order is a “joke,” adding that his group will continue to press for a legislated wage hike.

“A national wage increase is needed because the prices of commodities in the provinces are the same, and the productivity of workers in the provinces is the same as well. Workers should be paid equally and must not be discriminated against just because they are from the provinces,” he added.

Economic think tank IBON Foundation Executive Director Jose Enrique A. Africa said a legislated wage increase would not be inflationary.

“The P35 NCR minimum wage hike isn’t even enough to make up for inflation since the recent peak real value of the minimum wage was reached in June 2016 at the close of the last Aquino administration. This would have needed a P45 hike but only P35 was given, meaning that the minimum wage has not even kept up with the last eight years of inflation,” Mr. Africa told BusinessWorld via Viber.

Employers called the wage order a “relief” and “win-win” as it strikes a balance between the interests of workers and businesses.

In February, the Senate approved a P100 across-the-board minimum wage hike for workers in the private sector.

The House of Representatives has yet to pass counterpart legislation. Bills in the House for an across-the-board hike range from P100 to P750.

The regional board reviewed petitions ranging from P597 to P750 before it made its decision on June 27.

“I see an opportunity in this granting of even a meager wage increase. It emboldens workers in their advocacy for a legislated wage hike,” Mr. Matula added. “(This also) highlights to Congress the weaknesses of the RTWPBs, providing more reason to legislate corrective measures.”

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