Legislators on Metro wage hike: Timely, essential but not enough

(BUSINESS MIRROR) THE Senate leadership on Tuesday called the NCR wage order of additional P35 daily timely and essential, but still short of what people need to cope with continuing high inflation.

Senate President Francis Escudero said in Filipino that the increase granted by the Metro Manila wage board was not enough and will not be able to cover the needs of the workers in view of the high prices.

Escudero asked, also in Filipino: “Why is it that the Regional Tripartite and Productivity Wage Board always grants less than what the workers need? They have never been right since the time they were created.”

The Senate, he noted, has passed a “P100 across the board wage increase bill which should be the minimum increase albeit I believe it is still not enough to provide what the Constitution requires, which is a ‘living wage’ and not a mere ‘minimum wage.’”

For his part, Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada described as “Not just timely but essential” the P35 pay hike to Metro Manila workers.

“Given the rising inflation rate impacting poor households, the P35 increase in the daily minimum wage for workers in the National Capital Region [NCR] is not just timely but essential,” Estrada said.

Estrada, a known labor advocate, steered the passage in the upper chamber of Senate Bill 2534—a landmark measure pushing for a P100 increase in the daily minimum wage of workers in the private sector.

Nonetheless, Estrada commended the NCR-Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board’s grant of pay adjustment to the estimated 1.1 million minimum wage earners in Metro Manila saying that the move reflects their recognition of the hardships that workers are enduring and the need to enhance their purchasing power.

Estrada likewise underscored the importance of supporting micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) which account for 99.5 percent of the total number of business establishments in the country.

“We must strike a balance between ensuring fair wages for our workers and supporting the growth and sustainability of our MSMEs. Providing incentives and support for these businesses will help them adapt to wage increases while continuing to thrive and contribute to economic growth,” he explained.

Sen. Joel Villanueva meanwhile said, “While we welcome the P35 daily minimum wage hike, this is not enough to cover the daily needs of our workers, especially those who need to provide for their families.”

Reacting to the minimum wage increase in Metro Manila, Villanueva said, “This is exactly why we have been pushing for the inclusion of living wage as one of the criteria in determining the minimum wage, in line with the mandate of the Constitution.”

The NCR-TWPB issued on June 27, 2024 Wage Order NCR-25, bringing the minimum wage for non-agriculture workers from P610 to P645, and for those in the agriculture sector, service and retail establishments employing 15 or fewer workers, and manufacturing establishments regularly employing less than 10 workers, from P573 to P608.

Meanwhile, members of the House of Representatives urged other regional wage boards to act swiftly and follow the National Capital Region (NCR) wage board’s lead after it decided to boost the minimum wage in the nation’s capital.

The chairman of the House Committee on Metro Manila Development, Manila Rep. Rolando Valeriano and a member of the House Committee on Labor and Employment, Manila Joel R. Chua made the call after they commended the Metro Manla wage board for increasing the minimum wage.

Lawmakers expressed hope that the wage boards of other regions would swiftly follow the example set by the Metro Manila wage board.

While Valeriano believed that the minimum wage increase should be more than 35 pesos, as this only constitutes a 5.7 percent increase from the previous minimum wage of P610 compared to the 6 percent inflation rate in 2023, he expressed gratitude to the NCR Wage Board, led by the labor department’s regional director in Metro Manila, Sara Buena Mirasol, for this timely decision.

“Every worker in Metro Manila feels the pinch due to the weakened purchasing power of the peso,” he added.

For his part, Chua lauded the President and Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma for recognizing the immediate need to act without further delay.

He acknowledged the struggle of workers and their families and appreciated the prompt response from the Metro Manila Wage Board.

For his part, the chairman of the House Committee on Labor and Employment, San Mateo Rep. Fidel Nograles said that despite the wage hike, Congress will continue to deliberate on various bills proposing increases ranging from P150 to P350.