Labor group urges gov’t to set P800 minimum wage
A labor group is demanding a national minimum wage of P800 daily to help workers cope with the surging prices that workers blame on the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act.
At present, each region has its own daily minimum wage, which ranges from P255 in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to P512 in Metro Manila.
The call for a uniform minimum wage nationwide came as Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III ordered the country’s 17 regional tripartite wage boards to discuss and study the impact of the TRAIN law on each region.
Bello said the government must be sensitive to the plight of workers, who are planning to stage rallies to protest the TRAIN law and rising cost of living.
The Associated Labor Unions–Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) is urging the regional wage boards to synchronize all minimum wage rates at a uniform P800 daily nationwide.
“[The] government must now mitigate the worsening plight of workers and their families by providing a safety net while employers must immediately provide a substantial wage increase and save workers from falling into deeper destitution,” the group said.
Alan Tanjusay, ALU-TUCP spokesperson, said his group was alarmed by the swift erosion of the buying power of the minimum wage amid the TRAIN law and rising prices.
The TRAIN law imposes starting on Jan. 1 an excise on oil, sugary drinks and vehicles, among other goods, to compensate for raising the cap on tax-exempt personal income to P250,000 annually.
A surge in global oil prices coupled with the excise has caused the pump prices of oil products to soar, resulting in a domino effect on a range of goods and services.
As a result, the inflation rate rose to a five-year high of 4.5 percent in April and is expected to further go up.
The current minimum wage of P512 in Metro Manila falls short of the estimated living wage of P973 for a family of five and is far below the living wage of P1,168 for a family of six, according to research group Ibon.
Tanjusay said the labor group was reiterating its appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte to grant its proposal for the government to provide workers a subsidy of P500 daily so they could meet the family living wage.
He said the minimum wages should now be uniform because the poverty in Luzon was the same poverty felt by workers in the Visayas and Mindanao.
Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao said a P750 national minimum wage was not only to mitigate the impact of policies like the new tax law but also to recognize the Filipino workers’ rights.
“The call for a P750 national minimum wage is a social justice and democratic measure,” he said in a statement.
Casilao said the problem was that the cost of living had increased but workers were left with low purchasing power as their wages had not increased.
He said a national wage rate was needed because it was not only those in Metro Manila who were suffering.
“The assumption that the cost of living in the provinces is low is wrong. People in the provinces actually pay more because of transport [of products] and other logistical cost,” Casilao said.
‘Triple Whammy’ protest
Kilusang Mayo Uno said it would hold protest actions this week to show the Duterte administration how prices of basic commodities and services could be lowered.
The militant labor group said it would go to Makati City to slam the big oil companies, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Employers Confederation of the Philippines for their roles in pushing up prices and depressing wages.
“In the ‘Triple Whammy’ protest this week, we will be calling on the DTI to immediately junk the TRAIN law, oil deregulation law and value-added tax, which primarily cause the rising prices of petroleum products as well as basic commodities and services,” said Ed Cubelo, KMU Metro Manila chair.
In a radio interview, Bello said that while the wage boards should be sensitive to the situation of workers, these should balance the interests of labor and management.
The labor secretary issued the order for the wage boards to meet amid calls for wage increases and the President’s directive for the labor department to convene the regional wage boards. —With a report from Allan Nawal
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.