In Cebu, workers call for wage hikes to offset impact of El Niño

John Sitchon

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In Cebu, workers call for wage hikes to offset impact of El Niño

LABOR DAY. Workers from different trade unions call on the national government to address the pressing need for a wage increase as they march from Plaza Independencia to Fuente Osmeña in Cebu City to commemorate Labor Day on May 1, 2024.

Jacqueline Hernandez/Rappler

Zacarias Parba, Cebu chair of Partido Manggagawa, says the national government must focus on lowering the daily expenses of families in the country, hiking workers’ minimum wages, producing more employment, and addressing poverty at its core

CEBU, Philippines – On Labor Day, Wednesday, May 1, Juanito Hortelano Jr. travelled miles on his motorcycle during a protest led by labor unions in Cebu City to call for better treatment of food delivery workers and for a wage hike that will ensure his family will cope with the impact of the El Niño.

Hortelano has 4 kids, 3 of whom already go to school. He worries that he could not earn enough for his family given the economic conditions caused by the increasing temperatures in the country.

He said the El Niño phenomenon has taken its toll on their earnings, but is also an added burden for delivery riders like him who work more than 12 hours under the sweltering heat of the sun.

On average, Hortelano earns an estimated P600 per day. From his daily earnings, he sets aside P400 for his family’s living expenses and P200 for gas. 

“Working as a food delivery rider is no easy task,” Hortelano told Rappler in Cebuano. On top of dealing with mean merchants who force riders to wait for their delivery orders outside of the food establishment, Hortelano said, some customers ask riders to climb a flight of stairs to complete the delivery.

From his experience, the delivery rider must contend with these working conditions and risk getting heat-related illnesses if he wants to earn enough for his wife and kids.

Unsa ma’y sala namo nga rider man unta mi? Dapat unta tagaan mi og gamayng respetar,” the food delivery rider said.

(What is our sin when we are only riders? We deserve even just a little respect)

Naohde Vayson, president of the National Union for Food Delivery Riders – Cebu Chapter, told Rappler it was not always this way. 

He said food delivery riders used to earn P1,000 in 8 hours in 2019. At present, he said, an 8-hour-day’s pay is down to less than P600.

The union leader said majority of their fellow riders do not accept deliveries between 1 pm to 3 pm to avoid the punishing effect of the high temperatures.

Naay mga oras nga dili na mi mubiyahe kay tungod sa kainit. Ang amo baya income nagbase sa delivery fee. Kung dili mi mudeliver, wala gyud mi kit,” Vayson said. 

(There are hours when we do not ride because of the heat. Our income is based on the delivery fee. If we don’t deliver, we don’t earn)

Both Vayson and Hortelano urged the national government to increase the minimum wage to match the effects of the El Niño phenomenon on them and their families.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., in a speech on Wednesday, May 1, ordered the various Regional Tripartite Wage and Productivity Boards (RTWPBs) to review the set minimum wages with “due consideration to the impact of inflation among others”.

For worker justice

Besides food delivery workers, there were also members of labor unions from major manufacturing companies in Lapu-Lapu City and jeepney drivers who expressed their dismay over the government’s lack of response to the plight of workers in the country.

During the Labor Day protest, Zacarias Parba, Cebu chairperson of Partido Manggagawa (PM) criticized the government for prioritizing charter change instead of a wage increase. 

Ang pagbalewala sa Kongreso sa panginahanglan sa mga yanong mamumuo samtang ginaduso ang walay pulos nga charter change kay sukwahi sa prinsipyo sa primacy of labor over capital base sa atong Konstitusyon,” Parba said. 

(Congress’ neglect of the needs of the average worker while pushing for this useless charter change is against the principle of primacy of labor over capital, based on our Constitution)

Parba said the government should focus on 4 “musts” which are lowering the daily expenses of families in the country, hiking workers’ minimum wage, producing more employment, and addressing poverty at its core. –

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