Labor group calls opposition to wage hike as ‘alarmist’

Shoppers walks by a grocery store in downtown Iloilo City. (Arnold Almacen/file photo)

By Joseph B.A. Marzan

A labor group on Saturday countered some business groups’ qualms regarding the recent wage hike orders issued by the Department of Labor and Employment-Region 6 by quashing fears of higher inflation and business closures.

In a phone interview with Daily Guardian, Grid Alila of the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) reacted to the Iloilo Business Club’s (IBC) statement calling the recent wage orders issued by the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board-VI (RTWPB-VI) as “ill-timed”.

Alila said that based on the history of wage increases in the region, it would be the first time that workers have waited long for almost three years for a wage increase.

As to the businesses’ recovery lamentations on the wage increase, he said that workers’ welfare should be considered as part of recovery efforts as well.

Wage Order No. RBVI-25, the last pre-pandemic wage increase, was issued by the RTWPB-VI on October 22, 2019, while prior wage orders were issued on an average between 1 to 2 years.

“We don’t think it is in bad timing. We asserted in our position paper submitted after the public hearing, that the wage hike is timely. When we look at the rate increases of the minimum wage, it is the first time that we are increasing within three years,” Alila said.

“Workers should not be looked at as not being part of recovery. We see wage increase as part of overall recovery efforts of the government in the whole of the Philippines. It should not be looked at separately. Business owners should not dichotomize in a way that they would be the only ones to recover, and workers should not. If [PCCI Visayas Vice President Frank Carbon] says that they are already kneeling, workers are actually already crawling,” he added.

Alila said they also agreed with Carbon’s Philippine Daily Inquirer interview that national and local governments should focus on bringing more jobs.

He cited the First Semester Per Capita Poverty Threshold per region in 2018 and 2021 which indicated that for a family of five, the monthly poverty threshold is around P11,265.96.

He said the threshold would not meet monthly minimum wages which would be at a net of around P8,532 based on existing minimum wages and the usual number of working days in a month.

“It is also important. Unemployment rates are also rising, and [Carbon] is right on that. But we shouldn’t ignore the fact that we also need a wage increase, given also the recent inflation. There is already a huge discrepancy between the monthly [poverty] threshold and the monthly minimum wage, which already excludes inflation trends,” he said.

As to IBC Executive Director Eunice Guadalope’s Daily Guardian on Air statement that businesses may either close shop, suspend operations, or lay off workers, Alila called it ‘alarmist’ and ‘inconsiderate’.

“For us, we think that [Guadalope’s] position is very alarmist, and at the same time, what would workers do with that additional minimum wage? Of course, they would have to spend that [on goods]. Our view is that purchasing power would likewise increase, so the additional money would also cycle on to the economy and on the businesses,” he remarked.

“Before the [IBC] makes that kind of assumption, they’ll also consider other ventilations. This could also help stimulate the local economy, and at the same time they’ll be able to address burgeoning inequality in local communities,” he added.

He also said that if businesses feel like they cannot comply with the wage orders, they should file the necessary exemptions.

The RTWPB-VI issued Wage Order No. RBVI-26 on May 12 and published the same last Friday, May 20 in a newspaper of general circulation.

The wage order, which would be effective on June 5, increases wages of those working in non-agricultural sectors by Php55 from Php395 to Php450 in employers having more than 10 workers, and by Php110 from Php310 to Php420 for those employing 10 on less workers. Agricultural workers’ increase will be by Php95, from Php315 to Php410.00.

The board also issued and published RB-6-DW-04 on the same dates, which would increase the monthly salaries of domestic workers, including general house help, yayas, cooks, gardeners, laundry persons, and any person who regularly performs domestic work in one household on an occupational basis, to P4,500.

Alila said that despite welcoming the latest wage increase, they would continue to advocate for a P750 total hike.

They base their push on the Ambisyon Natin 2040 survey by the National Economic and Development Authority which indicated that a family has to have a gross monthly income of P120,000 for a “simple, comfortable life”.

BMP is one of the organizations supporting the FISHTA Union of Employees for Reforms through Solidarity Actions-Solidarity of Unions in the Philippines for Empowerment and Reforms (FUERSA-SUPER), which filed the P750 minimum wage petition last March.

(Daily Guardian is a member of the Iloilo Business Club.)