Labor Groups Advocate for Wage Increase to Address Workers’ Financial Struggles

Residents line up at a job fair in Manila on Wednesday, March 13, 2024, as part of the city's 'Kalinga sa Maynila' program. PHOTOS BY RENE DILAN
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Major Labor Groups Push for Wage Increase in the Philippines

Major labor groups in the Philippines, led by the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) and the Federation of Free Workers (FFW), are advocating for a significant wage increase of P150 across-the-board for private sector workers nationwide. This proposed amount aligns with the House Bill 7871, introduced by House Deputy Speaker Raymond Democrito Mendoza of the TUCP party-list.

During a press conference held at the TUCP headquarters in Quezon City, several prominent labor organizations, including the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO), the BPO (Business Processing Outsourcing) Industry Employees Network (BIEN), the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), the Public Services-Labor Independent Confederation (PS-LINK), FFW, and TUCP, expressed their support for the senators who passed Senate Bill 2534. This bill mandates a P100 daily minimum wage increase for private sector workers.

However, the labor groups stated that they prefer the House proposal, as they believe it would better address the “much-eroded” purchasing power of workers, considering the rapidly rising cost of goods and services and the ineffectiveness of the regional wage boards.

“We urgently call for congressional action, particularly on Representative Mendoza’s House bill. This is long overdue,” the labor groups emphasized. They appealed to the House leadership to expedite the consideration and passage of the bill, highlighting the pressing need for higher wages, as workers are currently struggling to make ends meet.

The labor groups further criticized the regional wage boards, claiming that they have consistently failed to provide adequate wage increases for the more than 4 million minimum wage earners, especially those without unions to collectively bargain for higher wages.

“Filipino workers without unions and collective bargaining agreements are at the mercy of regional wage boards, which only offer minimal wage increases,” the labor groups lamented.

According to the labor groups, higher wages would benefit both formally and informally employed workers, as well as employers and the overall economy. They argue that increased wages would stimulate consumer demand and foster inclusive and equitable wage-led growth.

Representative Mendoza, in his explanatory note accompanying the bill, highlighted that the proposed wage hike aims to recover the purchasing power lost to high inflation. However, most employers’ groups, including the umbrella Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), have opposed legislated wage hikes. They argue that such increases would not effectively benefit the majority of workers in the informal sector and could burden small companies, potentially leading to closures due to rising costs.

During the same press briefing, the labor groups celebrated their “historic meeting” with US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. They expressed gratitude for the meeting, as it marked the first time an American official personally engaged with Philippine workers’ groups.

The labor leaders conveyed that Secretary Raimondo and the American companies participating in her trade and investment mission to the Philippines have pledged to uphold the rights of Filipino workers. They quoted Secretary Raimondo, stating that the Biden administration aims to advance worker empowerment, workers’ rights, and labor standards globally through a whole-of-government approach.

The labor groups also revealed that Secretary Raimondo expressed deep concern about the labor rights situation in the Philippines. They reported that she committed to raising these issues, including red-tagging and extrajudicial killings, with the relevant American companies.

Overall, the push for a wage increase by major labor groups in the Philippines reflects the urgent need to address the deteriorating purchasing power of workers and the ineffectiveness of regional wage boards. The labor groups believe that higher wages would not only benefit workers but also contribute to inclusive and equitable economic growth.

Source: The Manila Times

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