Workers decry wage inequity

Seek P750 national daily pay as Du30 hails them on Labor Day

A major labor group said the prevailing minimum wage rates are not enough to give Filipino families three decent meals a day, even as President Duterte paid tribute—but offered no relief–to workers as the nation marked Labor Day.

MARCHING IN SOLIDARITY. Demonstrators take part in a protest to mark Labor Day in Manila on May 1, 2022. AFP

The Federation of Free Workers (FFW), in an interview with ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo, called for a P750 national minimum daily wage, saying that the current system in which sets different rates per region is discriminatory.

Labor groups have been filing petitions before various wage boards to raise the base pay as the prices of basic commodities continue to rise.

The Associated Labor Unions (ALU) has also called on the government to increase the minimum wages, which it said are below the poverty threshold.

Eva Arcos, ALU’s national vice president for education and information, said it has been around two to four years since the regions saw minimum wage hikes.

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With the current minimum wages, a family of five can only spend between P11 and P20 per meal, Arcos told ABS-CBN.

ALU has filed wage hike petitions in 10 of the 17 regions in the country, seeking a P470 increase in the National Capital Region.

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) had also sought a P470 increase in daily wages for workers in Metro Manila.

President Duterte did not mention wages Sunday but vowed to give Filipino workers “opportunities” to reach their full potential.

“This administration, even if it is coming nearly to a close, shall remain committed to providing the people with the opportunities they need to realize their full potential,” Duterte said.

Duterte lauded Filipino workers for being known worldwide for their “great passion, integrity and professionalism” they demonstrate in everything that they do.

“These qualities have not only brought economic gains to our country, but have also been a source of immense pride and encouragement among our people,” he added.

Labor Day, he said, gives the nation a chance to celebrate all the triumphs and progress that the labor movement has accomplished over the years.

However, he also acknowledged the need to swiftly address the challenges faced by the labor market.

“We are likewise reminded to overcome the challenges by recognizing the rights of our workers and reassessing the systems that may hinder their growth and development,” he added.

Duterte was scheduled to lead the 120th Labor Day celebration in Pampanga, highlighted by the opening of the country’s first Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) Hospital, located in San Fernando.

In a separate statement, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said there is a need for improvements to achieve access to dignified work.

Among the DND efforts is its commitment to help rebel returnees reintegrate successfully with and become productive members of their communities after turning their backs on rebellion and violence.

“As the nation pays tribute to workers from all industries and walks of life, may we also be reminded of the importance of supporting peace and security efforts to ensure that economic progress will become viable and within reach for all Filipinos,” he added.

In other developments:

The Makati Business Club paid tribute to Filipino workers. “We acknowledge the outsize burden they faced during the past two years. Some were essential and frontline workers risking COVID exposure so

others could live safely. Others were among the first —and longest — to lose their jobs. Many remain unemployed,” the group said in a statement.

“We will join other members of the business community in working with the new administration on policies that will accelerate job creation and improve the skills and productivity that are key to sustainable growth in workers incomes and benefits,” it added, without mentioning wages.

The Department of Labor and Employment said more than 141,000 local and overseas jobs were available at the face-to-face “Trabaho, Negosyo, Kabuhayan Job and Business Fairs” to be held nationwide in celebration of Labor Day.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said some 141,487 employment opportunities were up for grabs offered by 1,063 employers during the nationwide celebration. Most of the vacancies in the 26 job fair sites were in the manufacturing, business process outsourcing, and retail and sales industries.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian vowed to pursue measures to institutionalize tax cuts for work-from home employees and to provide additional benefits to construction workers.

Re-electionist Senator Risa Hontiveros called on regional wage boards to speed up their review of wage petitions, citing the need to increase minimum wages given the extraordinary rise in the cost of living in the last three days. “What’s taking so long?” Hontiveros asked, noting that the DOLE had announced a review of the minimum wage in March.

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