P40 hike in Metro Manila minimum wage still not enough — senators

(INQUIRER) MANILA, Philippines — A P40 increase in the daily minimum wage of private sector workers in Metro Manila is a welcome development, but it is still not enough, several senators said.

In separate messages, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, and Senators Grace Poe and Jinggoy Estrada reacted to the seven percent rise in the daily minimum wage, which will take effect on July 16.

This would bring the daily minimum wage of workers in the non-agriculture sector from P570 to P610, and from P533 to P573 for the agriculture sector, service and retail establishments employing 15 or less workers, and manufacturing establishments regularly employing less than 10 workers.

READ: P40 minimum wage increase approved in Metro Manila

This, however, is much less than the P150 across-the-board daily minimum wage hike, which had already been approved “in principle” by the Senate committee on labor, employment, and human resources development.

“That’s a wonderful development for our workers. Although it’s not enough,” Zubiri said.

Estrada, who heads the Senate labor panel, also deemed the wage increase “a welcome development,” noting that the labor sector has adamantly called for across-the-board pay hikes.

But, he recognized, it “may not be sufficient to achieve a living wage in the National Capital Region.”

While this shows that the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) in Metro Manila is aware of the need to promptly adjust the current wage structure, Estrada said, “Our workers need and deserve wage hikes to cope with the ongoing rise in the prices of basic goods and commodities.”

“This does not mean that bills proposing adjustments in workers’ wage rates, which are currently pending before my committee on labor, will be put on the back burner,” he said.

The senator vowed to take up the legislative proposal again in the upper chamber once Congress resumes for its second regular session in July.

“While these bills await action, we hope that other RTWPBs will follow suit, either by addressing filed petitions or initiating action on their own accord,” Estrada said.

Villanueva, meanwhile, renewed the push for Senate Bill 2140, which seeks to amend the wage-fixing criteria in the Labor Code of the Philippines and align it with the actual living wage.

“There is no sugar-coating the situation of Filipino workers – the minimum wage as presently determined is not enough for a family of five to live decently.  Hindi na po pantay ang kinikita ng bawat manggagawang Pilipino sa taas ng bilihin ngayon,” Villanueva said.

(…What an average Filipino worker earns now is no match to the high cost of commodities.)

He cited an IBON Foundation study as of May 2023, which found that a family of five in Metro Manila would need at least P1,160 every day “to live decently.”

The daily minimum wage, as adjusted after the wage hike, will only be around half of the average living wage, Villanueva said.

“It is important that we have clear standards which will serve as a basis in considering proposed wage increases to ensure a right balance in affording workers their families’ basic needs and sustainability and competitiveness of business,” he said.

Poe echoed the position of her colleagues, saying the newly-approved wage increase in Metro Manila is “woefully inadequate.”

She pointed out that the ballooning costs of basic goods, commodities and petroleum products have “hit the poor the hardest.”

“We hope employers capable of going the extra mile will do so through additional allowances or non-monetary benefits. Our workers deserve wages that will help their families live decently.”

According to the Department of Labor and Employment, the wage hike, which will take effect on July 16,  will “directly benefit” 1.1 million minimum wage earners in Metro Manila.

“About 1.5 million full-time wage and salary workers earning above the minimum wage may also indirectly benefit as a result of upward adjustments at the enterprise level arising from the correction of wage distortion,” DOLE said in an earlier statement.