Make the happy bills happen now—labor group on legislated wage hike

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

The labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) welcomed the announcement of Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri that they will facilitate the passage of a legislated across-the-board P150 salary hike but also called on the House of Representatives to fast-track its counterpart bill.

“A P150 across-the-board wage hike is indeed a happy bill since it will uplift workers’ lives and not just because it is a pet advocacy of legislators. Make the happy bills happen now,” according to Mario Andon, spokesperson of the Iloilo chapter of PM.

“We could not agree more with Senator Zubiri that private sector minimum wages have been eroded by inflation and are less than half the Constitutionally-mandated living wage. Thus, the imperative for immediate relief for workers through a legislated wage hike which Congress has the power to enact. Workers are suffering from starvation wages. Instead of a living wage, workers are paid a ‘libing’ wage,” Andon explained.

Using the latest consumer price index data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, the group calculates that P87 has been eroded from the P450 minimum wage of Western Visayas workers as of the January inflation of 8.7%.

Inflation in Western Visayas is higher than in the National Capital Region. However, the cost of living for a family of five is estimated by PM to be around P1,300 per day.

“The labor movement must link up arms to win the war, that is to fight for a wage increase for wage recovery. The working class needs champions in and out of Congress but only unity and action of workers can defeat the resistance of employers to a wage hike,” Andon asserted.

PM also asked Senator Zubiri to consider the long-standing demand for the abolition of the regional wage boards which discriminate against workers outside Metro Manila.

“Instead, we demand a National Wage Commission with the power to adjust wages on the basis of price increases and productivity growth. Even before the recent inflation, wages have stagnated amidst a decade and a half of 50% rise in labor productivity. This means that employers have monopolized economic growth and workers have been left behind,” Andon elaborated.

He added “Further, we are proposing a policy package called Apat na Dapat. First, wage hikes. Second, the abolition of regressive taxes like VAT and application of progressive taxation such as a wealth tax on oligarchs and billionaires. Third, social security subsidies for informal workers. Fourth, discounts on basic commodities. These will protect and improve the wages and incomes of workers in the formal and informal economy.”