P40 wage hike not enough to buy a kilo of rice — solon
The P40 increase in daily minimum pay for workers in Metro Manila approved this week cannot even buy a kilo of rice, a lawmaker said Friday.
On June 27, the National Wages and Productivity Commission approved an order by the National Capital Region (NCR) wage board raising the daily minimum wage for private sector nonagriculture workers from P570 to P610, while the pay for workers in agriculture, service and retail establishments with 15 or less employees, and manufacturing establishments with less than 10 employees was adjusted from P533 to P573.
The wage order takes effect July 16, or 15 days from publication scheduled on June 30.
House Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Arlene Brosas said the new wage of P610 “is still far” from the living wage of P1,000 a day for ordinary families.
But according to the Department of Labor and Employment, the new wage rates in Metro Manila “remain above the regional poverty threshold of P452 per day for a family of five.”
The Makabayan bloc lawmaker disagreed, saying in a statement that “While the P40 wage hike is a result of workers’ lobbying efforts, it is disheartening to see that it can hardly buy a kilo of rice and is significantly below the living wage.”
In May, the farm-gate price of palay averaged P19.06 per kilo, an increment of 10.6 percent from P17.24 in the same month last year, according to the latest data by the Philippine Statistics Authority.
Cathy Estavillo, spokesperson for the National Food Authority’s Bantay Bigas, which monitors rice prices, said the price of palay ranged from P19 to P21 per kilo in some parts of the country.
The commercial price of rice is usually double the farm-gate price. Retailers in Metro Manila sell locally produced rice from as low as P35 per kilo to as high as P60, depending on grain quality.
Kabataan Rep. Raoul Danniel Manuel, also of the Makabayan bloc, said “measly wage hikes … are just policy perfume to appease the public if the same government instigates a tsunami of price hikes through various goods and services in the coming months.”
Labor groups Nagkaisa coalition and Partido Manggagawa called for a “dignified, living wage” increase of at least P150. Partido also said it was “the side of business that was considered in this decision [by the NCR wage board].”
The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) also agreed that the new wage increase was “totally disproportionate to productivity growth and inutile in bringing nutritious food to families’ tables.”
‘Small yet significant’
“For more than three decades, labor productivity grew steadily and even exponentially, while minimum wages grew so little and so slow,” said TUCP vice president Luis Corral.
But one labor organization, the Federation of Free Workers, considered the P40 wage increase a “small yet significant step,” even as the group pointed out that many private sector workers feel “disappointed” because the new increase “inadequately addresses the escalating cost of living in Metro Manila.”
The Employers Confederation of the Philippines (Ecop) called the wage hike for Metro Manila workers “objective” and “balanced.”
“While we feel that many micro industries will find it difficult to adjust, we will support it because this is the amount that we think is balanced,” Ecop president Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. said in a phone interview, adding that the new wage order was more acceptable than the legislated wage hike that had been proposed in the Senate.
Sen. Grace Poe noted the “rising prices of basic goods, commodities and petroleum products [which] have hit the poor the hardest, including families who earn minimum wage.”“We hope employers capable of going the extra mile will do so through additional allowances or nonmonetary benefits,” she said.
Increase in provinces
Sen. Jinggoy Estrada also noted the increase in the prices of goods. “However, as a product of a tripartite body where employers, workers and the government are all represented, we are confident that this amount serves and protects the interests of all stakeholders,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III and Agri Rep. Wilbert Lee called on other regional wage boards to implement similar wage hikes.
“How about our countrymen in the provinces who also need to eat three times a day? It’s not right to just let them endure having meals just once a day forever,” Pimentel said in a statement.
Lee said: “While the government recognizes and acts on the needs of our workers, it must also realize that it has to empower the business sector so that businessmen are in a position to provide jobs and higher wages.”