Senate leaders slam P35 wage hike in NCR

(THE MANILA TIMES) SENATE leaders on Wednesday criticized the P35 minimum wage daily increase of private sector workers in the National Capital Region (NCR) approved by the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB).

Senate President Francis Escudero on Wednesday said that the wage increase was “grossly inadequate,” arguing that the paltry increase falls significantly short of addressing the real needs of workers, especially amid soaring prices of essential goods.

“Clearly, the true needs of our fellow citizens are far from being met amidst the high prices of goods,” Escudero said in Filipino, adding that RTWPB’s calculations do not accurately reflect the actual cost of living.

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He pointed out that the Senate had already passed a bill proposing a P100 across-the-board wage increase.

Some senators have agreed with the Senate President’s opinion on the pittance wage increase.

Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri in a statement on Tuesday said that the P35 daily minimum wage increase for private sector workers in Metro Manila was “grossly insufficient,” especially since food and rice “continue to become unaffordable to poor families.”

Zubiri, who pushed for a legislated P100 daily minimum wage increase, said the wage boards “should have approved higher amounts not only for NCR but for all regions as well as basic goods cost almost the same nationwide.”

For Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III, the amount for a just living daily wage, after eight hours of work, “must be determined by those knowledgeable in the field.”

“These amounts should not and cannot vary too widely among the regions of the country because, as human beings, we have the same needs for a decent life,” he said.

Pimentel, in a text message, said the current daily wage in Metro Manila of over P600 “is obviously still not enough to be considered a just living daily wage.”

Sen. Joel Villanueva, chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, agreed with Zubiri and Pimentel.

“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,” he said.

On the other hand, Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada said that given the rising inflation rate impacting poor households, the P35 increase in the daily minimum wage for workers in NCR was “not just timely but essential.”

However, he said it would be “more satisfactory” if the existing wage rate were legislated.Wage hike bills deliberations

The House of Representatives will continue its deliberations on proposals to increase, through legislation, wages nationwide.

On Tuesday, Rizal 4th District Rep. Fidel Nograles, chairman of the House Committee on Labor and Employment, hailed the approval of a P35 increase in the daily minimum wage.

“This wage hike is timely. This will provide much-needed and immediate relief to our minimum-wage workers in the metro. But the fight for workers’ welfare does not stop here,” Nograles said in Filipino.

When the approved increase takes effect on July 17, the daily minimum wage for non-agriculture workers will increase to P645 from P610.

The daily minimum wage for agriculture sector workers, service or retail establishments employing 15 workers or less, and manufacturing establishments regularly employing below 10 workers will increase to P608 from P573.

Nograles said that despite the wage increase, Congress would continue its deliberations on proposals for legislated increases that range from P150 to P350.

Slap in the face

The Liberal Party (LP) of the Philippines considered the new P35 wage increase in the NCR as a “slap in the face” to workers.

“Aside from being lower than last year’s approved amount, the additional P35 is not even enough to buy a kilogram of rice at a time when prices of goods continue to rise unabated,” LP said in a statement.

It added that low wages not only “causes suffering but also kills the dreams of citizens and the future of the country.”

It had also called on the government to give workers compensation “worthy of their dedication and sacrifices.”

Wage hike bills urgent

In response to the P35 wage increase, organized labor has called on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to certify as urgent pending wage increase bills in the House of Representatives.

The National Wage Coalition, spearheaded by the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Nagkaisa! Labor Coalition and Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), made the call as it assailed the P35 wage increase.

“The P35 wage increase can’t even buy a kilo of rice,” said Partido Manggagawa Chairman Renato Magtubo, adding that what the workers were expecting was a wage recovery increase as the actual value of the current P610 minimum is only P510 because of inflation.

TUCP said the NCR wage increase was nothing but crumbs, vowing to push for the passage of House Bill 7871, also known as the Wage Recovery Act, which seeks to give a daily across-the-board P150 wage hike for all workers in the private sector.