The Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development will still push for the legislated wage hike despite the approval of a P40 increase in the daily minimum wage in Metro Manila.
"Amid calls for an across-the-board pay increase being sought by the labor sector, the P40 grant in the daily minimum wage by the NCR Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) is a welcome development," said Senator Jinggoy Estrada, the committee's chairman.
"Nevertheless, this does not mean that bills proposing adjustments in workers' wage rates which are currently pending before my Committee on Labor, will be put on the back burner," he added.
Estrada said the matter will be taken up "[a]s soon as Congress resumes its Second Regular Session."
Estrada issued the statement amid the latest order of Metro Manila's Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board increasing the minimum wage in the NCR.
He also expressed hope that other regional tripartite wage and productivity boards will follow suit while the bills for increased minimum wage is still pending in Congress.
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III also urged the RTWPB to order the same increase and implement reasonable wage adjustments.
He stressed the “urgency of reviewing and reassessing current wage rates to ensure they are both reasonable and realistic for workers across all provinces.”
The minority leader asserted that even in rural areas, residents are experiencing the impact of rising prices, including more expensive gas and electricity bills.
“Paano naman sila? Paano naman ang mga kababayan natin sa probinsiya na kailangan ding kumain ng tatlong beses sa isang araw? Hindi naman pwedeng ‘altanghap’ na lang forever,” said Pimentel.
The term "altanghap" is short for almusal, tanghalian and hapunan, which refers to the sole meal the poorest Filipinos can afford to eat, Pimentel said.
“I earnestly call upon the wage boards to establish minimum wages that not only uphold fairness for our dedicated workers but also empower them to live a life of dignity,” Pimentel said.
“Today’s minimum wage rates across the country are unacceptable. To increase our wage rates in every corner of the nation today is a matter of social justice given the prevailing challenges of inflation and its adverse effects on purchasing power,” he added.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, who is seeking a P150 across the board minimum wage hike, said the NCR RTWPB’s order is a "wonderful development" for workers but maintained that "it's not enough."
The same was echoed by Senator Grace Poe, saying the wage hike is “”woefully inadequate” as the rising prices of basic goods, commodities and petroleum products have hit the poor the hardest, including families who earn minimum wage.
“We hope employers capable of going the extra mile will do so through additional allowances or non-monetary benefits. Our workers deserve wages that will help their families live decently,” Poe said.
In March, Zubiri filed a bill to increase the minimum wage of private workers by P150 amid the soaring inflation in the country.
The bill will not prevent the respective RTWPB to grant additional increases to the workers and employees on the basis of its determination pursuant to Republic Act. No. 6727 or the Wage Rationalization Act as amended.
For Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, the way to proceed was to clarify the criteria of what constituted a living wage.
“There is no sugar-coating the situation of Filipino workers – the minimum wage as presently determined is not enough for a family of five to live decently. Hindi na po pantay ang kinikita ng bawat manggagawang Pilipino sa taas ng bilihin ngayon,” Villanueva said.
He said Filipinos who receive the current daily minimum wage from P306 to P570 have to make do with these amounts for the family’s daily needs, and a P40 wage increase will not make a significant change.
Citing a study by the IBON Foundation, Villanueva said a family of five in Metro Manila needed at least P1,160 a day to live decently.
“This means that the NCR minimum wage is only half of the required living wage,” Villanueva said.
He then stressed the need to pass Senate Bill 2140, which seeks to amend the wage fixing criteria in the Labor Code that puts a living wage front and center in the determination of a regional minimum wage.
“It is important that we have clear standards which will serve as a basis in considering proposed wage increases to ensure a right balance in affording workers their families’ basic needs and sustainability and competitiveness of business,” he said. —KBK, GMA Integrated News