On Labor Day, workers' groups lament 'discriminatory, inadequate' minimum wage

Jaehwa Bernardo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 01 2022 01:03 PM | Updated as of May 01 2022 04:52 PM

Labor groups and supporters collectively dubbed
Labor groups and supporters collectively dubbed "Workers for Leni" march toward Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City on Labor Day, May 1, 2022, as a tribute to workers in the country. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATE) — The prevailing minimum wages in the Philippines are not enough to provide Filipino families with decent meals and are discriminatory, labor groups said Sunday as the country marked Labor Day.

In an interview with ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo, the Federation of Free Workers said it supported proposals for the implementation of a P750 national minimum wage, describing the current system — where the base pay varies per region — as discriminatory.

"'Yong pong panukalang batas na magdadagdag ng minimum wage, gagawing P750 [sa buong Pilipinas] suportado po namin 'yan," said FFW Vice President for Media Affairs Julius Cainglet.

The FFW is backing the presidential candidacy of Vice President Leni Robredo, whom Cainglet said acknowledges the inequity of the differing minimum wages per region.

"Ang malinaw, may pagkilala siya na may diskriminasyon sa mga sahod kasi, halimbawa, karpintero ka sa Maynila at karpintero ka sa Tarlac. Dahil taga-Maynila ka, makakakuha ka ng P600 pero dahil taga-Tarlac ka, mas maliit," Cainglet said.

(What's clear is she recognizes that there's discrimination in salaries. For instance, you are a carpenter in Manila and Tarlac. Because you're from Manila, you'll get P600 for your service but because you are from Tarlac, you'll get a smaller amount.)

The current daily minimum wage in Metro Manila is P537.

"Parehong trabaho ang ginawa natin sa parehong oras na ginugol... Yet, just because of where we live... mag-iiba ang sahod," said Cainglet, adding that the scheme should be "corrected" and "made equal."

(We did the same job for the same period of time... Yet just because of where we live... we will have different salaries.)

Since March, labor groups have been filing petitions to hike the minimum wages in the country amid the increase in prices of basic goods.

The FFW has filed petitions in various wage boards for hikes ranging from P75 to P100, said Cainglet.

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On Sunday, FFW and other labor groups supporting Robredo — such as NAGKAISA Labor Coalition and Sentro — are set to hold a rally in Quezon City to commemorate Labor Day.

The Associated Labor Unions (ALU) is also calling 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 2 to 4 years since the regions saw minimum wage hikes.

"Between 2 to 4 years na walang galaw ang minimum wages pero 'yong presyo ng bilihin at serbisyo, naggalawan na," she said in a separate interview.

(We have not adjusted minimum wages for between 2 to 4 years but the prices of goods and services have moved.)

With the current minimum wages, a family of 5 can only spend between P11 to P20 per meal, according Arcos.

"I-increase naman natin 'yong minimum wages kasi ang allocation lang, anong klaseng pagkain ang mabibili ng P11 o hanggang P20?" she said.

(Let's increase the minimum wage because with the current allocation, what kind of food can one buy with just P11 to P20?)

ALU has filed wage hike petition in 10 of the 17 regions in the country, Arcos said. In the National Capital Region, the group asked for a P470 increase.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros also called on regional wage boards to speed up the process of reviewing hike petitions.

"What’s taking so long? Ano mang delay sa paglalabas ng desisyon ukol sa minimum wage ay pwedeng magdulot ng kagutuman o kawalan ng pag-asa sa mga manggagawa na makaahon pa sila sa patong-patong na bayarin," Hontiveros, who is gunning for reelection, said in a statement.

(What's taking so long? The delay in releasing the decision on minimum wages can cause hunger and loss of hope for our workers that they can still pay their mounting dues.)

Hontiveros also urged the labor department to strictly enforce the minimum wage mandates, citing official statistics showing 1 in 4 workers received wages that were below the regional minimums.

Senate Labor Committee Chairman Joel Villanueva said the government should adjust its policies to cater to an emerging "post-pandemic Filipino workforce."

"We are seeing the rise of health and well-being as a priority in the Filipino workplace because of the pandemic," Villanueva, who is also running for another Senate term, said.

"It has reached a level where employees will resign or change jobs if employers do not meet employees’ expectations of a workplace, which is taking care of employees’ physical and mental health, as well as work-life balance," he said.

Villanueva said the policymakers must now "figure out how to maintain productivity and grow the economy while accommodating the changes in the physical, mental, and emotional needs of the workforce."
Labor leaders killed

FFW's Cainglet also said 43 labor leaders have been killed under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, with perpetrators emboldened by killings under the government's drug war.

"Nagkaroon siguro sila ng inspirasyon sa tokhang, ginagamit sa drug war, parang ginamit na rin nila sa mga manggagawa," he said.

(The perpetrators appeared to be inspired by the tokhang in the drug war, they used it also on workers.)

Earlier this year, the International Labor Organization called on the Philippine government to probe allegations of extrajudicial killings and assaults against workers.