MANILA, Philippines — Former senator Jinggoy Estrada said yesterday the country’s regional wage boards should fast-track the study on possible wage increases amid skyrocketing prices of fuel, food and other basic necessities.
In a statement, Estrada said that while he appreciates the instruction of Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to study the wage hike, the target of late April “is a bit too late.”
“Even before the pandemic, the average minimum wage of workers is already insufficient to make ends meet. With the spike in global crude oil prices due to Russia’s attack on Ukraine, the low take-home pay of workers is now a critical problem,” he said.
The UniTeam senatorial bet said he is most concerned with the plight of transport workers, particularly jeepney drivers, who are taking the brunt of the oil price increases. “Unable to pass on the high cost of fuel to passengers, jeepney drivers often have very little or no take-home pay at all,” he explained.
If granted a fresh Senate term, Estrada said he would prioritize measures to make drivers of public utility vehicles receive regular salaries instead of relying on the boundary system.
He noted that during times when fuel prices are skyrocketing, drivers bear the brunt of effects while the boundary received by operators remains intact. “The old system has brought so much misery to Filipino drivers. It’s time to change it,” he stressed.
On the issue of wages, Estrada said he plans to introduce reforms to the Wage Rationalization Act, which placed the responsibility of setting the minimum wage with the 17 regional wage boards. “The national government should have more flexibility in adjusting the basic pay of ordinary workers especially in times of crises or emergencies,” he said.
As former chairman of the Senate labor committee, Estrada has long advocated for the improvement of the welfare of wage earners. He said the practice of setting minimum wages is absurd since it has consistently failed to keep up with inflation.
“Based on data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, the average wage decreased by 10 centavos for every peso in 2020. Effectively, the minimum wage of P537 in Metro Manila is only worth P483.30 as a result of pandemic’s effects on prices,” he said.
“Government must ensure that Filipinos earn enough to have a decent life and prevent their mass migration in search of better pay,” Estrada said.
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